Piora Oscillation

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Holocene Temperature Variations.png

The Piora Oscillation was an abrupt cold and wet period in the climate history of the Holocene Epoch; it is generally dated to the period of c. 3200 to 2900 BCE.[1] Some researchers associate the Piora Oscillation with the end of the Atlantic climate regime, and the start of the Sub-Boreal, in the Blytt–Sernander sequence of Holocene climates.

The spatial extent of the change is unclear; it does not show up as a major, or even identifiable, event in hemispheric temperature reconstructions.

First detection[edit]

The phenomenon is named after the Val Piora or Piora Valley in Switzerland, where it was first detected; some of the most dramatic evidence of the Piora Oscillation comes from the region of the Alps.[2] Glaciers advanced in the Alps, apparently for the first time since the Holocene climatic optimum; the Alpine tree line dropped by 100 meters. In the Middle East, the surface of the Dead Sea rose nearly 100 meters (300 feet), then receded to a more usual level. A few commentators have associated the climate changes of this period with the end of the Uruk period, as a Dark Age associated with the floods of the Gilgamesh epic and Noah's flood of the Book of Genesis.[3]

Link to horse domestication[edit]

The Piora Oscillation has also been linked to the domestication of the horse. In Central Asia, a colder climate favored the use of horses: "The horse, since it was so adept at foraging with snow on the ground, tended to replace cattle and sheep."[4] The Piora period seems associated with a period of colder drier air over the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, and may have depressed rainfalls as far afield as the Middle East. It is also associated with a sudden onset of drier weather in the central Sahara.


The cause or causes of the Piora Oscillation are debated. A Greenland ice core, GISP2, shows a sulfate spike and methane trough c. 3250 BCE, suggesting an unusual occurrence — either a volcanic eruption or a meteor or an asteroid impact event. Other authorities associate the Piora Oscillation with other comparable events, like the 8.2 kiloyear event, that recur in climate history, as part of a larger 1500-year climate cycle.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Space and Earth Science News article summarizes evidence for sudden global cooling 5.2K years BP Archived 2008-01-15 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Lamb, pp. 124, 128, 143.
  3. ^ Lamb, p. 128.
  4. ^ Matossian, p. 43.


  • Baronia, Carlo; Orombelli, Giuseppe (1996). "The Alpine "Iceman" and Holocene Climatic Change". Quaternary Research. 46 (1): 78–83. Bibcode:1996QuRes..46...78B. doi:10.1006/qres.1996.0046. 
  • Burroughs, William J. (2003). Climate: Into the 21st Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-79202-9. 
  • Caseldine, C.; et al. (2005). "Evidence for an extreme climatic event on Achill Island, Co. Mayo, Ireland around 5200–5100 cal. yr BP". Journal of Quaternary Science. 20 (2): 169–178. Bibcode:2005JQS....20..169C. doi:10.1002/jqs.901. 
  • Lamb, Hubert H. (1995). Climate, History, and the Modern World. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-12735-1. 
  • Magny, Michel; Haas, Jean Nicolas (2004). "A major widespread climatic change around 5300 cal. yr BP at the time of the Alpine Iceman". Journal of Quaternary Research. 19 (5): 423–430. Bibcode:2004JQS....19..423M. doi:10.1002/jqs.850. 
  • Matossian, Mary A. K. (1997). Shaping World History: Breakthroughs in Ecology, Technology, Science, and Politics. New York: M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 0-7656-0061-7. 
  • Wick, Lucia; Tinner, Willy (1997). "Vegetation Changes and Timberline Fluctuations in the Central Alps as Indicators of Holocene Climatic Oscillations". Arctic and Alpine Research. 29 (4): 445–458. doi:10.2307/1551992. JSTOR 1551992.