For most of the history of our species we were helpless to understand how nature works. We took every storm, drought, illness and comet personally. We created myths and spirits in an attempt to explain the patterns of nature.
The Effects of DroughtS
Drought is an Old English word originated from the ancient Germanic root “dreug”, which means a continuous dry weather injurious to vegetation, leading to a shortage of water in water bodies such as creeks, rivers or lakes.
Over millennia, this natural hazard could not be understood or defined but rather was associated with mystical connotations. As a result, drought occurrences became the origin of mythology, curses, and folklore. To my knowledge, the first personification of the drought hazard appears in the Epic of King Gilgamesh of Uruk in Mesopotamia (c. 2000 BCE). In this ancient heroic legend, Gilgamesh braved and defeated drought in the form of the mythical beast the “Bull of Heaven”. This legend describes how the bull’s voracious appetite caused the drought and wreaked havoc on the people in ancient Mesopotamia. Another well know Biblical passage was that of the Pharaoh’s Dream (Genesis 41), in which seven years of famine will follow seven years of abundance.
Despite all the human suffering, the socio-economic losses and the ecological consequences inflicted by the onset of droughts over the centuries, mankind was hopeless in their attempts to predict and ameliorate the consequences of droughts. In old times, it appeared that the only possible actions to mitigate the pain and loss caused by this natural event were religious and folkloric rituals.
We are the first generation of humans that was able to understand and predict with some ability the occurrence and magnitude of droughts. I find this fact perplexing…
I have devoted more that 20 years of my professional life to understanding and modeling this natural hazard. There are a number of books and scientific articles that describe this phenomena. On this site, I would like to present photographs showing the effects of droughts on elements of the water cycle or vegetation.