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§World Event

The 8.2 kiloyear event is the term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries. Milder than the Younger Dryas cold spell that preceded it, but more severe than the Little Ice Age that would follow, the 8.2 kiloyear cooling was a significant exception to general trends of the Holocene climatic optimum.

A rapid cooling around 6200 BC was first identified by Swiss botanist Heinrich Zoller in 1960, who named the event Misox oscillation (for the Val Mesolcina). It is also known as Finse event in Norway. Bond et al. argued that the origin of the 8.2 kiloyear event is linked to a 1,500-year climate cycle; it correlates with Bond event 5.

The strongest evidence for the event comes from the North Atlantic region; the disruption in climate shows clearly in Greenland ice cores and in sedimentary and other records of the temporal and tropical North Atlantic. It is less evident in ice cores from Antarctica and in South American indices. The effects of the cold snap were global, however, most notably in changes in sea level during the relevant era. There is ice core evidence on Mount Kilimanjaro of a rapid shift in climate at 8,300 years before the present.

The 8.2 Ka cooling event may have been caused by a large meltwater pulse from the final collapse of the Laurentide ice sheet of northeastern North America—most likely when the glacial Lake Ojibway & glacial Lake Agassiz suddenly drained into the North Atlantic Ocean.

Cooler and drier conditions prevailed, as in the Younger Dryas though less extreme. Yet the changes may have been severe enough to impact one of the earliest settled human communities: the first phase of Catal Huyuk ended during the 8.2 kiloyear event. The site was abandoned and not re-occupied until about 5 centuries later, when climate conditions had improved markedly. This also saw increased aridity in the Middle East. Juris Zarins has suggested the development of a Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex of cultures in the period of the 6,200 BC climatic crisis, stretching from Southern Palestine down the Red Sea shoreline and northeastward into Syria and Iraq, which spread Proto-Semitic languages through the region. This complex may have developed from the fusion of Harifian and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B cultures in Southern Palestine.

As Harifian used the Outacha retouch point technique found earlier in the Fayyum, it has been suggested that Proto-Semitic may have come from Egypt across the Sinai. Given the fact that Semitic is most closely related to the Ancient Egyptian language of all the Afro-Asiatic languages, this origin is also distinctly possible.

Drier conditions were notable in North Africa, while East Africa suffered five centuries of general drought. In West Asia and especially Mesopotamia, the 8.2ky event was a three-hundred year aridification and cooling episode, which provided the natural force for Mesopotamian irrigation agriculture and surplus production that were essential for the earliest class-formation and urban life. However multi-centennial changes around the same period are difficult to link specifically to the approximately 100-year abrupt event as recorded most clearly in the Greenland ice cores.

The initial meltwater pulse has caused between 0.5 and 4 meters of sea-level rise. Based on estimates of lake volume and decaying ice cap size, values of 0.4 - 1.2 meters (1-4 ft) circulate. Based on sea-level data from below modern deltas 2 - 4 (6-12 ft) meters of near-instantaneous rise is estimated, recorded superimposed on background 'normal' post-glacial sea-level rise. Meltwater pulse sea level rise was experienced fully at great distance from the release area. Gravity and rebound effects associated to the shifting of watermasses make that the sea-level fingerprint is smaller in areas closer to the Hudson Bay. The Mississippi delta records ~20%, NW Europe records ~70% and Asia records ~105% of the global averaged amount. The cooling of the 8200 event was a temporary feature, the sea-level rise of the meltwater pulse was permanent.


It was about this time that the volcano known as Karapinar Field in Central Anatolia (modern Turkey) last erupted.


Rising sea levels caused what is now England to be cut off from the mainland.


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Page last modified on September 13, 2016, at 01:56 PM