Ancient water wells reveal a prolonged drought in the lower Yellow River area about 2800 years ago

TitleAncient water wells reveal a prolonged drought in the lower Yellow River area about 2800 years ago
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsYu, S, Chen, X, Liu, X, Fang, Z, Guo, J, Zhan, S, Fang, H, Chen, F
JournalScience Bulletin
Pagination1324 - 1327
Date PublishedJan-10-2018

Given that the Holocene is the most recent interglacial period that has spurred the development of modern societies, scrutinizing climate changes during this period may provide a knowledge base for better understanding the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. However, our knowledge about the mechanism of millennial-scale climate variability particularly in the absence of major continental ice sheets during the second half of the Holocene remains highly uncertain. Although cold spells manifested as the Bond events have been widely reported in the North Atlantic sector during the mid-to-late Holocene, it is not clear whether or not there is a global expression of these events. Therefore, well-tuned far-field proxy records are indispensable to pinpoint the geographical extent of these climate events. Here we show evidence from ancient water wells in North China for a prolonged drought corresponding to a period of pervasive cooling in the North Atlantic region lasting from about 800 to 550 before the Common Era (BCE). Inferred climatic conditions using a conceptual hydrological model, in line with other proxy records, support the hypothesis of the Sun-climate link probably through the complex ocean-atmospheric interactions in the tropical oceans. Our finding suggests that water well construction represented a major technical invention in human history, which greatly improved the resilience against the depletion of surface water at times when arid climate prevailed. The linked climatic and societal changes demonstrated here can serve as a historical analogue for the socio-economic response to potentially large climate changes in the future.