Climatologists claim that two entire civilizations disappeared likely because of climate change
Scientists who specialize in studying the world’s long-term trends in precipitation and temperature throughout history are called paleo-climatologists. They draw from several reliable data sources like fossil pollen tree rings, glacial ice, water sediments, and corals.
A reconstruction of the Earth’s climate over the past 2,000 years indicates a lot of volatility. Historical changes and trends have revealed that the overall climate has gone through several extended warming and cooling periods.
Three ancient civilizations were significantly affected by climate change during their time on Earth. It is believed that two of these civilizations were utterly wiped out by climate change, while the third lost a significant settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
Maya Classic Period
The Maya civilization was quite fascinating and advanced for their time. But scientists now believe that this society was significantly impacted by climate change.
Starting around 300 BC, these people settled in the lowlands of the Yucatán peninsula, which is Guatemala and Mexico today. This was when they began to organize their culture and evolved into a highly urbanized, literate, agriculturally productive, hierarchical, and complex civilization.
The Maya reached its achievement peak during the Maya Classic period, which took place between the years 200–900 AD. After this, their population began to plummet. Before long, the sites had been abandoned, and the civilization vanished.
There’s some compelling research that indicates that the rise and fall of this civilization occurred because of climate change. Perhaps the most influential data comes from the dating of recently discovered stalactites (hanging cave formations) located in the vicinity of Maya cities. This data confirmed that their urban growth was highest during their wettest period.
Indus Valley Civilization
Evaluating the effects of climate on the Indus Valley civilization is far more complicated. These people are often referred to as the Harappan culture. This was a Bronze Age civilization that flourished between the years 2500 and 1700 BC in the Indus Valley. This region today is located in Pakistan and a portion of India.
This fascinating culture had lots of different cities, and all of them were connected across the region and beyond in a thriving trade network. Despite being located at the edge of a desert, these cities were supported by a vast agricultural system.
However, this civilization suddenly experienced a decline and disappeared about 4,000 years ago. It is believed that climate change played a significant role in their disappearance. When the region became drier, the monsoon-driven water that was a necessity for Harappan agriculture became a lot less reliable.
Over time, people abandoned these cities and moved east to the plains of the Ganges, which later grew into the Indian civilizations.
The Viking Spring
It was approximately the year 1000 when the Vikings first came to North America — some 500 years before Christopher Columbus. Oddly enough, their culture was unable to establish a permanent settlement there. Many believe that they left North America because of the changing climate.
When taking a closer look, scientists determined that the Vikings arrived in North America when the climate was coincidentally warm, as compared to historical averages. During such a period, the sea ice was much less extensive than usual, which allowed for much easier communication and travel with Europe. This also meant there was a flourishing fishing season during the summer. From a climatological point of view, the Vikings couldn’t have visited this new continent at a better time.
The only problem is that this ‘Viking Spring’ was short-lived. As would be expected, this warming period was immediately followed by a period of cooling. This would have proven to be a tremendous challenge for the Viking settlement as they likely struggled for vital resources. Add this struggle to being greatly disconnected from their homeland, and you have some very frustrated Vikings. By around the year 1100, the Vikings abandoned their North American settlement — primarily because of the changing climate.