Long-range forecasting is today a major area of climate research. Such forecasts affect socioeconomic planning in many fields of activity. There are essentially two approaches to longrange forecasting: one is based on solving the equations that govern atmospheric and ocean dynamics, the other on the statistical properties of past climate records. The present talk is based on the latter, statistical approach. Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams provides a striking example of long-range planning based on a climate forecast. Joseph interpreted the two dreams as a forecast for seven years of plenty, followed by seven of famine. Based on this forecast, he proposed to Pharaoh a plan for running the agriculture and economy of Egypt. It is not clear from the Biblical story why Pharaoh trusted Joseph’s forecast and appointed him to implement the plan. Our answer to this question is based on ancient and medieval Egypt’s being entirely dependent on the Nile River’s seasonal flooding: when the highest water levels did not cover the arable areas of the river valley, crops were insufficient to feed the population. When successive years of hunger weakened the economy and the state, change of rulers could, and sometimes did ensue. Extreme examples were the fall of the Old Kingdom in 2185 B.C. and the Fatimid conquest of Egypt in 969 A.D. Hence the Egyptians measured the high-water mark of the Nile River for over 5000 years, using different tools. The most advanced of these tools was the nilometer; typical nilometers appear in several mosaics from the Roman and Byzantine period around the Mediterranean, such as the “Nile Festival” mosaic in Zippori (Upper Galilee), Fig. 1. The measurements had a twofold purpose: first to set the annual taxes, which were a function of the high-water mark, for obvious reasons; and second, to provide information for water management, with a view to reduce drought damage. Our analysis of high- and low-water levels for 622–1922 A.D. shows that oscillations with a period of several years occur, with a 7-year oscillation being dominant. We suspect that the origin of this 7-year swing lies in the same periodicity being present in the North Atlantic’s sea-surface temperatures and sea-level pressures. This North Atlantic Oscillation affects the climate of Europe, North America and the Middle East, and might be the ultimate reason for Joseph’s successful climate forecast.
The historical records of the low- and high-water levels of the Nile River are among the longest climatic records that have near-annual resolution. There are few gaps in the first part of the records (A.D. 622-1470) and larger gaps later (A.D. 1471-1922). We apply advanced spectral methods, Singular-Spectrum Analysis (SSA) and the Multi-Taper Method (MTM), to fill the gaps and to locate interannual and interdecadal periodicities. The gap filling uses a novel, iterative version of SSA. Our analysis reveals several statistically significant features of the records: a nonlinear, data-adaptive trend that includes a 256-year cycle, a quasi-quadriennial (4.2-year) and a quasi-biennial (2.2-year) mode, as well as additional periodicities of 64, 19, 12, and, most strikingly, 7 years. The quasi-quadriennial and quasi-biennial modes support the long-established connection between the Nile River discharge and the El-Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The longest periods might be of astronomical origin. The 7-year periodicity, possibly related to the biblical cycle of lean and fat years, seems to be due to North Atlantic influences.
Oscillatory climatic modes over the North Atlantic, Ethiopian Plateau, and eastern Mediterranean were examined in instrumental and proxy records from these regions. Aside from the well-known North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index and the Nile River water-level records, the authors study for the first time an instrumental rainfall record from Jerusalem and a tree-ring record from the Golan Heights. The teleconnections between the regions were studied in terms of synchronization of chaotic oscillators. Standard methods for studying synchronization among such oscillators are modified by combining them with advanced spectral methods, including singular spectrum analysis. The resulting cross-spectral analysis quantifies the strength of the coupling together with the degree of synchronization. A prominent oscillatory mode with a 7–8-yr period is present in all the climatic indices studied here and is completely synchronized with the North Atlantic Oscillation. An energy analysis of the synchronization raises the possibility that this mode originates in the North Atlantic. Evidence is discussed for this mode being induced by the 7–8-yr oscillation in the position of the Gulf Stream front. A mechanism for the teleconnections between the North Atlantic, Ethiopian Plateau, and eastern Mediterranean is proposed, and implications for interannual-to-decadal climate prediction are discussed.
This experimental work addresses the need for high-resolution, long and homogeneous climatic time series that facilitate the study of climate variability over time scales of decades to millennia. We present a high-resolution record of foraminiferal d18O from a Central-Mediterranean sediment core that covers the last two millennia. The record was analyzed using advanced spectral methods and shows highly significant oscillatory components with periods of roughly 600, 350, 200, 125 and 11 years. Over the last millennium, our data show several features related to known climatic periods, such as the Medieval Optimum, the Little Ice Age and a recent steep variation since the beginning of the Industrial Era. During the preceding millennium, the d18O series also reveals a surprising maximum at about 0 AD, suggesting low temperatures at that time. This feature contradicts widely held ideas about the Roman Classical Period; it is, therefore, discussed at some length, by reviewing the somewhat contradictory evidence about this period. We compare the d18O record with an alkenone-derived sea surface temperature time series, obtained from cores extracted in the same Central-Mediterranean area (Gallipoli Terrace, Ionian Sea), as well as with Italian and other European temperature reconstructions over the last centuries. Based on this comparison, we show that the long-term trend and the 200-y oscillation in the records are temperature driven and have a dominant role in describing temperature variations over the last two millennia.