Climate scientist sees stage set for reprise of worst known drought, famine

phys.org | 10/11/2018 | Staff
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A Washington State University researcher has completed the most thorough analysis yet of The Great Drought—the most devastating known drought of the past 800 years—and how it led to the Global Famine, an unprecedented disaster that took 50 million lives.

She warns that the Earth's current warming climate could make a similar drought even worse.

Deepti - Singh - Assistant - Professor - WSU

Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in WSU's School of the Environment, used tree-ring data, rainfall records and climate reconstructions to characterize the conditions leading up to the Great Drought, a period of widespread crop failures in Asia, Brazil and Africa from 1875 to 1878.

"Climate conditions that caused the Great Drought and Global Famine arose from natural variability. And their recurrence—with hydrological impacts intensified by global warming—could again potentially undermine global food security," she and her colleagues write in the Journal of Climate. The paper comes as a United Nations report this week predicts that rising worldwide temperatures will bring about more frequent food shortages and wildfires as soon as 2040.

Global - Famine - Disasters - History - Epidemic

The Global Famine is among the worst humanitarian disasters in history, comparable to the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, World War I or World War II. As an environmental disaster, it has few rivals. Making matters worse were social conditions, like British colonialists hoarding and exporting grain from India. Some populations were particularly vulnerable to disease and colonial expansion afterwards.

"In a very real sense, the El Niño and climate events of 1876-78 helped create the global inequalities that would later be characterized as 'first' and 'third worlds'," writes Singh, who was inspired by "Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World." The book details the social impact of the Great Drought and subsequent droughts in 1896-1897 and 1899-1902. Its author, Mike Davis, is a distinguished professor at the University of California, Riverside, and a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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