Genghis Khan Aided By Rain


Much enjoy reading how weather impacts history.

New research by  tree-ring scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and West Virginia University may have uncovered the reason why an obscure band of nomadic Mongol horsemen were able to sweep through much of Asia in a few meteoric decades 800 years ago, conquering everything in their path: They enjoyed an unprecedented, and yet-to-be-repeated, 15-year run of bountiful rains and mild weather on the normally cold and arid steppes.

The traditional view has been that the Mongols were desperately fleeing harsh conditions in their craggy, mountainous homeland. The Lamont-Doherty team, however, found just the opposite: Between 1211 and 1225—a period that neatly coincides with the rise of Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire—central Mongolia enjoyed a spell of sustained benign weather unlike anything the region has experienced during at least the past 1,100 years and probably much longer.

The long run of unusually good conditions meant abundant grasses and a huge increase in herds of livestock and war horses that became the basis of Mongol power—a marked contrast to the long and exceptionally severe droughts that gripped the region during the 1180s and 1190s, causing unrest and division.

The Mongols saw their opportunity and seized it—and were fortunate enough that this great tide in their affairs happened to coincide with the rise to power of a vigorous chieftain who would go on to unite them: Genghis Khan.

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