The degree to which warming of the planet will alter Asia's water resources is an important question for food, energy, and economic security. Here we present geological evidence, underpinned by radiometric dating and dendrochronology, and bolstered by hydrological modeling, indicating that wetter-than-present conditions characterized the core of the inner Asian desert belt during the Little Ice Age, the last major Northern Hemispheric cold spell of the Holocene. These wetter conditions accompanied northern mid-latitude cooling, glacier expansion, a strengthened/southward-shifted boreal jet, and weakened south Asian monsoons. We suggest that southward migration of grasslands in response to these wetter conditions aided the spread of Mongol Empire steppe pastoralists across Asian drylands. Conversely, net drying over the 20th century has led to drought that is unprecedented for the past ∼830 years, and that could intensify with further heating of the Asian continent.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.