Prolonged Drought in Northern China During the Maunder Minimum and Its Relation to Peasant Rebellions and Fall of the Ming Dynasty

Sultan Hameed [shameed@notes.cc.sunysb.edu] and Gaofa Gong, Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres, Stony Brook University, New York.

            The fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 at the hands of a small group of Manchu nomads is considered a puzzle in Chinese history. Historical records show that the previous fifteen years were marked by widespread peasant rebellions in the country. Precipitation indices for 120 locations in China were developed for the years 1470-1979 by the State Meteorological Administration. The precipitation data indicate that the years 1627-1643 were characterized by droughts of unprecedented severity and duration over most of northern China. A year-by-year comparison of the geographical distributions of rebel activity with the precipitation indices shows that 75 percent of the rebellions occurred in drought affected areas. Drought and resulting famine were the major factors in the start of the rebel movement in Shaanxi province and its spread to other regions. A relationship between the strength and location of the subtropical High in the North Pacific and solar activity is seen in modern meteorological data. This relationship is interpolated to the prolonged droughts of the 17th century to possibly explain the cold and dry climate in northern China over periods of the Maunder minimum.