Climate change and the demise of Minoan civilization
- 1Department of Mathematical Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences Group, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA
- 2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0202, USA
- 3Department of Biology, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469, USA
Abstract. Climate change has been implicated in the success and downfall of several ancient civilizations. Here we present a synthesis of historical, climatic, and geological evidence that supports the hypothesis that climate change may have been responsible for the slow demise of Minoan civilization. Using proxy ENSO and precipitation reconstruction data in the period 1650–1980 we present empirical and quantitative evidence that El Nino causes drier conditions in the area of Crete. This result is supported by modern data analysis as well as by model simulations. Though not very strong, the ENSO-Mediterranean drying signal appears to be robust, and its overall effect was accentuated by a series of unusually strong and long-lasting El Nino events during the time of the Minoan decline. Indeed, a change in the dynamics of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system occurred around 3000 BC, which culminated in a series of strong and frequent El Nino events starting at about 1450 BC and lasting for several centuries. This stressful climatic trend, associated with the gradual demise of the Minoans, is argued to be an important force acting in the downfall of this classic and long-lived civilization.