More than a century ago, the world experienced a series of naturally occurring, unusual climates that triggered the most devastating drought of the last 800 years.
The Great Drought led to crop failures throughout Asia, Brazil and Africa from 1875, leading to a widespread famine that eventually resulted in 50 million deaths.
And if it happened again today, scientists say, it would be much worse.
Recent research suggests that similar periods of drought caused by extreme El Niño or other natural events are far more catastrophic than they have been in the past and would lead to "severe shocks to the global food system".
More than a century ago, the world experienced a series of crazy climates that triggered the most devastating drought of the last 800 years. An engraving depicting the plight of humans and animals in British India during the resulting great famine of 1876-78 is shown
The global famine that accompanied the Great Drought between 1875 and 1878 is considered one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in history.
Washington State University researchers at Washington State University used ring data, precipitation records and climate reconstructions to determine the conditions that led to it.
The team found that some naturally occurring events were to blame.
1875 failed the Indian monsoon season and brought drought in the region. This was followed by droughts in East Asia, in the spring of 1867, in much of Africa, in northeastern Brazil and parts of Southeast Asia and Australia.
At that time, British colonialists exported grain from India, which compounded the problem.
"The climatic conditions that led to the great drought and global famine are due to natural variability," wrote Deepti Singh, Assistant Professor at the WSU Environmental School, and colleagues in the new study.
"And their repetition – with hydrological effects enhanced by global warming – could undermine global food security again."
The devastation that followed these events caused, in the investigator's view, socio-economic effects that would last for more than a century.
"In a very real sense, the events of El Niño and the climate of 1876-78 have helped to create the global inequalities that would later be referred to as the" first "and" third world, "writes Singh.
Recent research suggests that similar periods of drought caused by extreme El Niño or other natural events are far more catastrophic than they have been in the past and would lead to "severe shocks to the global food system"
WHAT IS THE CLIMAPENOMENON EL NIÑO?
El Niño and La Nina are the warm and cool phases of a repeating climate phenomenon in the tropical Pacific, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or ENSO for short.
The pattern can oscillate irregularly every two to seven years, and each phase triggers predictable disturbances of temperature, wind, and precipitation.
These changes disturb the air movement and affect the global climate.
ENSO has three phases:
- El Niño: Sea surface warming or above average sea surface temperatures (SST) in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. Indonesia is reducing precipitation as rain increases over the tropical Pacific. The low surface winds that normally flow east to west along the equator weaken instead, or in some cases begin in the other direction from west to east.
- La Niña: Sea surface cooling or below sea surface temperatures (SST) in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. In Indonesia, precipitation tends to increase while rainfall in the central tropical Pacific decreases. The normal eastern winds along the equator become even stronger.
- Neutral: Neither El Niño nor La Niña. Tropical Pacific SSTs are often close to average on average.
Cards with the most common effects associated with El Niño ("warm episode" above) and La Niña ("cold episode" below) in the period December to February, when both phenomena are strongest
Singh says a similar climate event on a global scale could recur – especially as climate change and rising greenhouse gases are expected to intensify El Niño events in the future.
This is the first time that someone has used multiple data sources – such as rain gauges and drought leaves with tree rings that leave us 500 or 800 years behind – as well as multiple records of past climatic conditions to quantify the severity of this event and the Severity of the conditions that led to it, "Singh said.
While many of the socio-political factors involved in the earlier famine no longer exist, the researcher says: "Such extreme events would still lead to severe shocks to the global food system, and local food insecurity in vulnerable countries could materialize the today strongly networked countries are strengthened global food network. & # 39;