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October 17 2012

Weatherwatch: Climate helped Genghis Khan create the Mongol empire


The Mongol empire in the 13th century conquered great swaths of Asia, the Middle East and even parts of Europe at staggering speed, but how did Genghis Khan and his armies manage to conquer so much and so fast? The answer may lie in some ancient dead trees found recently in an old volcanic lava flow in Mongolia. The trees were so well preserved that their annual growth rings were still visible and gave an astonishing insight into the climate of the 1200s. The wood rings were spaced wide apart showing that the trees grew well, thanks to plenty of rain. And because the trees did well, the chances are that the grasslands of the vast Mongolian plains also grew lush in the wet climate. Those rich grasslands would have fuelled the Mongol armies, giving plenty of grazing land for the thousands of horses that the troops relied on, and livestock to feed the soldiers.

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