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Cave Clues Point to Parched Mideast for 10K Years

Iranian stalagmites indicate rain isn't coming anytime soon
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2017 8:27 AM CDT

(Newser) – For anyone holding hope that the dry conditions in the Middle East are but a temporary drought, two cave stalagmites taken from Iran tell a long history of the region's precipitation and give a grim prognosis: not much rain for the next 10,000 years. Thanks to their chemical composition, the two rocks store data dating back 130,000 years, detailing how much water has fallen in that time, reports the International Business Times. Publishing their results in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, researchers say the oxygen levels of the stalagmites—rocks that grow up from a cave floor—indicate precipitation levels that are linked to the patterns of the sun's energy on the Earth's surface. In short, they rise and fall together.

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It won't be for another 10,000 years, though, that "solar insolation" will rise above today's values, forecasting more rain. "Local governments generally prefer the narrative that the region is only in a temporary dry spell," says the study's lead author at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School. "To the contrary ... the future long-term trend based on paleoclimate reconstructions is likely towards diminishing precipitation." UPI notes that other climate models have suggested that the Mideast will become too hot and dry to sustain large populations within a century. (This simple ingredient could help crops survive droughts.)

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