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Journal Article

Recurring summer and winter droughts from 4.2-3.97 thousand years ago in north India


Haug,  Gerald H.
Climate Geochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Giesche, A., Hodell, D. A., Petrie, C. A., Haug, G. H., Adkins, J. F., Plessen, B., et al. (2023). Recurring summer and winter droughts from 4.2-3.97 thousand years ago in north India. Communications Earth & Environment, 4: 103 (2023). doi:10.1038/s43247-023-00763-z.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-3CAF-C
The 4.2-kiloyear event has been described as a global megadrought that transformed multiple Bronze Age complex societies, including the Indus Civilization, located in a sensitive transition zone with a bimodal (summer and winter) rainfall regime. Here we reconstruct changes in summer and winter rainfall from trace elements and oxygen, carbon, and calcium isotopes of a speleothem from Dharamjali Cave in the Himalaya spanning 4.2–3.1 thousand years ago. We find a 230-year period of increased summer and winter drought frequency between 4.2 and 3.97 thousand years ago, with multi-decadal aridity events centered on 4.19, 4.11, and 4.02 thousand years ago. The sub-annually resolved record puts seasonal variability on a human decision-making timescale, and shows that repeated intensely dry periods spanned multiple generations. The record highlights the deficits in winter and summer rainfall during the urban phase of the Indus Civilization, which prompted adaptation through flexible, self-reliant, and drought-resistant agricultural strategies.