Timeline of environmental history
The timeline lists geological, astronomical, and climatological events in relation to events in human history which they influenced. For the history of humanity's perspective on these events, see timeline of the history of environmentalism.
- Circa 10,000 BC â€” World: Sea levels rise abruptly and massive inland flooding occurs due to glacier melt.
- â€” Bering Sea: Land bridge from Siberia to North America disappears as sea level rises.
- â€” North America: Long Island becomes an island, and not just a terminal moraine, when rising waters break through on the western end to the interior lake
- Circa 9700 BC â€” Lake Agassiz forms from glacial melt-water.
- Circa 9600 BC â€” Younger Dryas cold period ends. Pleistocene ends and Holocene begins. Large amounts of previously glaciated land become habitable again.
- Circa 9500 BC â€” Ancylus Lake, part of the modern-day Baltic Sea, forms.
- Circa 9000 BC - end of the pre-Boreal period of European climate change. Pollen Zone IV Pre-boreal, associated with juniper, willow, birch pollen deposits.
- â€” Antarctica - long-term melting of the Antarctic ice sheets is commencing.
- â€” Asia - rising sea levels caused by postglacial warming.
- â€” North America - The glaciers were receding and by 8,000 BCE the Wisconsin had withdrawn completely.
- â€” World - Inland flooding due to catastrophic glacier melt takes place in several regions.
- â€” Rising sea levels form the Torres Strait, separate Australia from New Guinea.
- â€” Increasing desiccation of the Sahara. End of the Saharan Pluvial period.
- â€” Associated with Pollen Zone VI Atlantic, oak-elm woodlands, warmer and maritime climate. Modern wild fauna plus, increasingly, human introductions, associated with the spread of the Neolithic farming technologies.
- â€” Rising sea levels from glacial retreat flood what will become the Irish Sea, separating the island of Ireland from the British Isles and Continental Europe.
- Circa 5600 BC â€” According to the Black Sea deluge theory, the Black Sea floods with salt water. Some 3000 cubic miles (12,500 kmâł) of salt water is added, significantly expanding it and transforming it from a fresh-water landlocked lake into a salt water sea.
- Circa 5500 BC â€” Beginning of the desertification of north Africa, which ultimately lead to the creation of the Sahara desert. It's possible this process pushed some natives into migrating to the region of the Nile in the east, thereby laying the groundwork for the rise of Egyptian civilization.
- Circa 5000 BC â€” The Older Peron transgression, a global warm period, begins.
- 5000 BC â€” Use of a sail begins. The first known picture is on an Egyptian urn found in Luxor.
- 3900 BC â€” Intense aridification triggered worldwide migration to river valleys. Abrupt end of the Ubaid period.
- Circa 3600 BC - 2800 BC â€” Climatic deterioration in Western Europe and the Sahara. In Europe Pollen zone VII Sub Boreal, oak and beech. Glacial advances of the Piora oscillation, with lower economic prosperity in areas not able to irrigate in the Middle East.
- 2900 BC â€” Floods at Shuruppak from horizon to horizon, with sediments in Southern Iraq, stretching as far north as Kish, and as far south as Uruk, associated with the return of heavy rains in Nineveh and a potential damming of the Karun River to run into the Tigris. This ends the Jemdet Nasr period and ushers in the Early Dynastic Period of Sumer cultures of the area. Possible association of this event with the Biblical deluge.
- 2650 BC â€” Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh describes vast tracts of cedar forests in what is now southern Iraq. Gilgamesh defies the gods and cuts down the forest, and in return the gods say they will curse Sumer with fire (or possibly drought). By 2100 BC, soil erosion and salt buildup have devastated agriculture. One Sumerian wrote that the "earth turned white." Civilization moved north to Babylonia and Assyria. Again, deforestation becomes a factor in the rise and subsequent fall of these civilizations.
- â€” Some of the first laws protecting the remaining forests decreed in Ur.
- 2500 BC â€” Sahara becomes fully desiccated. Desiccation had been proceeding from 6000 BCE, as a result of the shift in the West African tropical monsoon belt southwards from the Sahel. Subsequent rates of evaporation in the region led to a drying of the Sahara, as shown by the drop in water levels in Lake Chad. Tehenu of the Sahara attempt to enter into Egypt, and there is evidence of a Nile drought in the pyramid of Unas.
- 2200 BC â€” Beginning of a severe centennial-scale drought in northern Africa, southwestern Asia and midcontinental North America, which very likely caused the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt as well as the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia.
- 1900 BC â€” The Atra-Hasis Epic describes Babylonian flood, with warnings of the consequences of human overpopulation.
- 1450 BC â€” Minoan civilization in the Mediterranean declines, but scholars are divided on the cause. Possibly a volcanic eruption was the source of the catastrophe (see Minoan eruption). On the other hand, gradual deforestation may have led to materials shortages in manufacturing and shipping. Loss of timber and subsequent deterioration of its land was probably a factor in the decline of Minoan power in the late Bronze Age, according to John Perlin in A Forest Journey.
- 1206 BC - 1187 BC â€” Evidence of major droughts in the Eastern Mediterranean. Hittite and Ugarit records show requests for grain were sent to Egypt, probably during the reign of Pharaoh Merenptah. Carpenter has suggested that droughts of equal severity to those of the 1950s in Greece, would have been sufficient to cause the Late Bronze Age collapse. The cause may have been a temporary diversion of winter storms north of the Pyrenees and Alps. Central Europe experienced generally wetter conditions, while those in the Eastern Mediterranean were substantially drier. There seems to have been a general abandonment of peasant subsistence agriculture in favour of nomadic pastoralism in Central Anatolia, Syria and northern Mesopotamia, Palestine, the Sinai and NW Arabia.
- c 2000 BC -1000 BC - The Sarasvati River dries up. Desertification of the Thar Region begins.
- 800 BC - 500 BC â€” Sub-Atlantic period in Western Europe. Pollen Zone VIII, sub-Atlantic. End of last Sea Level rise. Spread of "Celtic fields", Iron Age A, and Haalstadt Celts. Increased prosperity in Europe and the Middle East.
- Circa 225 BC â€” The Sub-Atlantic began about 225 BCE (estimated on the basis of radiocarbon dating) and has been characterized by increased rainfall, cooler and more humid climates, and the dominance of beech forests. The fauna of the Sub-Atlantic is essentially modern although severely depleted by human activities. The Sub-Atlantic is correlated with pollen zone IX; sea levels have been generally regressive during this time interval, though North America is an exception.
- Circa 200 BC â€” Sri Lanka first country in the world to have a nature reserve, King Devanampiyatissa established a wildlife sanctuary
 2nd century
 4th century
 6th century
- 535-536: global climate abnormalities affecting several civilizations.
 9th century
- Circa 850 â€” Severe drought exacerbated by soil erosion causes collapse of Central American city states and the end of the Classic Maya civilization.
 13th century
 14th century
 15th century
- 1453 - Eruption of Kuwae in Pacific contributes to fall of Constantinople. Environmental Science is developed.
- 1492 - Christopher Columbus lands in Caribbean islands, starting the Columbian Exchange, causing the Aztec Empire and Inca Empire to fall to the Spanish in the next century, as well as bringing various species of animals and plants across the Atlantic Ocean.
 17th century
 18th century
 19th century
- 1815 â€” Eruption of Mt. Tambora in what is now Indonesia, largest in the 2nd millennium AD. Leads to the-
- 1816 â€” -"Year Without a Summer."
- 1883 - Eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia. The sound of the explosion is heard as far as Australia and China, the altered air waves causes strange colours on the sky and the volcanic gases reduce global temperatures during the following years. The vivid sunsets were captured in Edward Munch's The Scream.
 20th century
- 1906 - San Francisco earthquake causes collapse of insurance markets and the Panic of 1907.
- 1914-1918 - World War I, which involves heavy bombardment, explosions, and poison gas warfare.
- 1918 - Spanish Flu kills between 50 to 100 million people
- 1932 to 1937 â€” Exceptional precipitation absence in northern hemisphere exacerbated by human activities causes the Dust Bowl drought of the US plains and the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 (harsh economic damage in US and widespread death in USSR)
- 1937-1945 - Pacific War and World War II, with heavy bombardment, genocide, and explosions. Towards the end of the war, nuclear warfare occurs for the first time when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are bombed.
- post-1945 - Nuclear tests are performed by the United States, Soviet Union, India, Pakistan, China, North Korea, the United Kingdom, and France. Above-ground detonations continue until the Partial Test Ban Treaty is signed in 1963, causing fallout and spreading radiation around the explosion sites.
- 1960 â€” World human population reached 3 billion mark.
- 1970s-2000s - Deindustrialization occurs in the Midwest and then much of the United States, as manufacturing industries (and their pollution) move to China, India, and other countries.
- 1980 â€” Mount St. Helens erupts explosively in Washington state.
- 1984 - Bhopal disaster.
- 1986 - Chernobyl meltdown and explosion, contaminating surrounding area, including Pripyat.
- 1987 â€” World human population reached 5 billion mark.
- 1999 - World human population reached the 6 billion mark.
 21st century
- 2004 â€” Earthquake causes large tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, killing nearly a quarter of a million people.
- 2005 â€” Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma cause widespread destruction and environmental harm to coastal communities in the US Gulf Coast region, especially the New Orleans area.
- 2010 - Earthquake in Haiti destroyed vital infrastructure.
- ^ Wilson, C. J. N.; Ambraseys, N. N.; Bradley, J.; Walker, G. P. L. (1980). "A new date for the Taupo eruption, New Zealand". Nature 288: 252â€“253. doi:10.1038/288252a0.
- ^ Witze, Alexandra (2008-04-11). "The volcano that changed the world". Nature.Com News. Nature Publishing Group. http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080411/full/news.2008.747.html. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
- ^ Richard H. Grove, â€śGlobal Impact of the 1789â€“93 El NiĂ±o,â€ť Nature393 (1998), 318-319.
- ^ Kerry A. Odell and Marc D. Weidenmier, Real Shock, Monetary Aftershock: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the Panic of 1907, The Journal of Economic History, 2005, vol. 64, issue 04, p. 1002-1027.
- ^ a b "United Nations Population Fund moves Day of 6 Billion based on new population estimates". Population Connection. 1998-10-28. http://www.populationconnection.org/Reports_Publications/Reports/report14.html. Retrieved 2006-03-11.
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