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Researcher finds first evidence of climate change of northern China region

Using a relatively new scientific dating technique, a Baylor University geologist and a team of international researchers were able to document--for the first time--a drastic climate change 4,200 years ago in northern China that affected vegetation and led to mass migration from the area.

forman

Dr. Steve Forman, professor of geology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and researchers--using a dating technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence--uncovered the first evidence of a severe decrease in precipitation on the freshwater lake system in China's Hunshandake Sandy Lands. The impact of this extreme climate change led to desertification--or drying of the region--and the mass migration of northern China's Neolithic cultures.

Their research findings appear in the January 2015 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"With our unique scientific capabilities, we are able to assert with confidence that a quick change in climate drastically changed precipitation in this area, although, further study needs to be conducted to understand why this change occurred," Forman said.

Between 2001 and 2014, the researchers investigated sediment sections throughout the Hunshandake and were able to determine that a sudden and irreversible shift in the monsoon system led to the abrupt drying of the Hunshandake resulting in complications for the population.

"This study has far-reaching implications for understanding how populations respond and adapt to drastic climate change," said Forman, the director of the Geoluminescence Dating Research Lab in the Department of Geology.