Articles | Volume 8, issue 2
Research article
29 Mar 2012
Research article |  | 29 Mar 2012

A seesaw in Mediterranean precipitation during the Roman Period linked to millennial-scale changes in the North Atlantic

B. J. Dermody, H. J. de Boer, M. F. P. Bierkens, S. L. Weber, M. J. Wassen, and S. C. Dekker

Abstract. We present a reconstruction of the change in climatic humidity around the Mediterranean between 3000–1000 yr BP. Using a range of proxy archives and model simulations we demonstrate that climate during this period was typified by a millennial-scale seesaw in climatic humidity between Spain and Israel on one side and the Central Mediterranean and Turkey on the other, similar to precipitation anomalies associated with the East Atlantic/West Russia pattern in current climate. We find that changes in the position and intensity of the jet stream indicated by our analysis correlate with millennial changes in North Atlantic sea surface temperature. A model simulation indicates the proxies of climatic humidity used in our analysis were unlikely to be influenced by climatic aridification caused by deforestation during the Roman Period. That finding is supported by an analysis of the distribution of archaeological sites in the Eastern Mediterranean which exhibits no evidence that human habitation distribution changed since ancient times as a result of climatic aridification. Therefore we conclude that changes in climatic humidity over the Mediterranean during the Roman Period were primarily caused by a modification of the jet stream linked to sea surface temperature change in the North Atlantic. Based on our findings, we propose that ocean-atmosphere coupling may have contributed to regulating Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation intensity during the period of analysis.