El Niño and the Nomads: Global Climate, Local Environment, and the Crisis of Pastoralism in Late Ottoman Kurdistan

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Zozan Pehlivan University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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This article explores the impacts of environmental crises on pastoral nomads in Ottoman Kurdistan/Armenia in the late nineteenth-century. It demonstrates that the climatic fluctuations characterizing these environmental crises were synchronized with global climatic oscillations, specifically the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Recurrent episodes of severe drought and cold dramatically affected these groups, who were unable to withstand extreme changes in temperature and precipitation. Back-to-back drought episodes created a shortage of water, dried up pastures and damaged forage, while severe cold resulted in high rates of premature death among herd animals. These climatic events thus had devastating economic and social consequences.

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