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Wadi Faynan, southern Jordan, provides an archaeological record of human settlement from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Islamic period, and indeed into the present day. As for any long-term record of settlement, an understanding of the changes in economy and society requires knowledge about the impacts of climate and environment change on human communities, especially when dealing with settlement in arid landscapes. This chapter attempts to place the 10,000 years of Holocene settlement in Wadi Faynan between c. 12,000 and 2,000 years ago into its hydrological context. A rainfall-runoff model is used to examine the potential impacts of both Holocene climatic change and human behaviour on the hydrological behaviour of the wadi and then on human settlement. Wade et al. (this volume, Chapter 12) have shown that rainfall-runoff models can successfully simulate the behaviour of the present-day wadi system, demonstrating how such behaviour is sensitive to variability in rainfall and infiltration rates. Here we use the results of regional climate modelling to determine statistical properties of palaeo-rainfall for the Wadi Faynan and then use a stochastic weather generator (this volume, Chapter 5) to create a rainfall series which is used to drive the hydrological model. Results are used to explore the potential impacts of climatic variability on human communities from 12,000 to 2,000 years ago, demonstrating that palaeohydrology may provide a bridge between regional-scale climate data and local-scale cultural developments.
A survey of publicly available data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that the Middle East will become significantly drier as greenhouse gas levels rise – with potentially devastating consequences. Simulating the climate of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East is, however, a tough challenge for climate models and those results should be interpreted with caution. The cyclones which migrate from west to east across the Mediterranean in winter and early spring, and which deliver much of the annual precipitation to the Middle East, are not well resolved by global climate models of the type included in the IPCC archive. Furthermore, the local climate is modified by coastlines and mountains throughout the region. For these reasons we provide a supplement to the IPCC results with simulations from a regional climate model. As in the global models, the regional model projects that, under an A2 (business-as-usual) scenario, precipitation will decrease significantly in the Middle East. Further investigation of the daily statistics of the weather, along with tracking of weather systems in the present day and future climate scenarios, suggest that the dominant mechanism for these changes is a reduction in the strength of the Mediterranean storm track. The Mediterranean storm track is fairly well simulated by the regional climate model, increasing confidence in this projection. […]
The arid climate of the Middle East means that variations in rainfall on all timescales from days to years have an enormous impact on the people who live in the region. Understanding this variability is crucial if we are to interpret model simulations of the region's climate and make meaningful predictions of how the climate may change in the future and how it has changed in the past (Chapters 3 and 4). This study uses rain gauge measurements in conjunction with other meteorological data to address the following questions. How does rainfall vary from day to day and from year to year? How does rainfall vary spatially within Jordan and Israel? How does the atmospheric circulation over the Mediterranean region affect the daily probability of rain? What effect do large-scale modes of variability such as the North Atlantic Oscillation have on rainfall variability in the region?
Variability in precipitation has posed a considerable challenge to the population of the Middle East throughout the Holocene, and continues to be a key issue today. Understanding this variability is crucial for the design and interpretation of climate model experiments that characterise how precipitation has changed in the past and predict how it will change in the future.
When used in conjunction, climate models and palaeoenvironmental data can lead to a more complete understanding of past climate than is possible using either method in isolation. Moreover, the veracity of climate models can be evaluated, which then lends credence to their use for predicting future climate change. In this study we investigate the transition to aridity in the eastern Mediterranean that occurred in the Holocene, a transition with marked consequences for settlement of the Middle East. We show that the general pattern of a transition during the Holocene to a wetter northern Europe and a drier Middle East is seen in both the palaeoenvironmental record and climate model simulations. The pattern of precipitation changes projected by the climate model for the past is similar to those projected for the end of the twenty-first century under GHG-driven climate change. The climate model's ability to represent the past – as tested against palaeoenvironmental observations – thus lends credence to the future projections.
The Holocene climate of the Middle East can be investigated using climate proxies and geological evidence (Chapters 6 and 7, this volume) or through climate modelling (Chapter 3). In this chapter, we show how combining these two approaches has the potential to deepen our understanding of the past climate. We also describe how comparison between the climate model output, proxy data and historical observations provides a means of evaluating the climate models and assessing the credibility of future projections.
In this chapter, we develop an improved understanding of the Mediterranean's past climate through a series of ‘time-slice’ climate integrations relating to the past 12,000 years, performed using a version of the Met Office Hadley Centre's global climate model (HadSM3). The output is dynamically downscaled using a regional version of the same model to offer unprecedented spatial detail over the Mediterranean. Changes in seasonal surface air temperatures and precipitation are discussed at both global and regional scales along with their underlying physical drivers.
In the experiments the Mediterranean experiences more precipitation in the early Holocene than the late Holocene, although the difference is not uniform across the eastern Mediterranean. The results suggest that there may have been a relatively strong reduction in precipitation over the eastern Mediterranean coast during the period around 6–10 thousand years before present (kaBP). The early Holocene also shows a stronger seasonal cycle of temperature throughout the Northern Hemisphere but, over the northeast Mediterranean, this is mitigated by the influence of milder maritime air carried inland from the coast.
Understanding the changes in the Mediterranean climate during the Holocene period is a challenging problem, but one that is critical to interpreting long-term change in human settlement. The region at present displays marked seasonality with dry, hot summers and cool, wet winters.
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