History/Social Studies


BCE = Before Common Era

CE = Common Era

c. = circa (approximately)

Introduction to Climate in Human History 

Climate events have played a major role in shaping the course of human history. Numerous examples of such events are listed below, and their impacts on human history are explored in this teaching resource.  

This illustration shows temperature variations (in ℃) over the last 11,000 years and some corresponding events in human history (from “Climate in Human History” in Prothero, Donald R., and Robert H. Dott. Evolution of the Earth. 8th ed, McGraw-Hill, 2010).

Prehistory: Human Evolution and Migration (3 million years ago-3000 BCE)

Ancient Civilizations (5000 BCE-1200 CE)


  • Rise and Fall of Civilizations in Northern Africa



The Americas

The Near East

  • Development of the First Great Civilizations in the Fertile Crescent and Their Agricultural Practices (c. 5000-4000 BCE)
  • Rise of Highly Complex, Centralized Governments (e.g., the Egyptian pharaohs and Babylonian kings) (c. 3000 BCE)
  • Megadrought and Collapse of Old Kingdom Egypt (c. 2200-1900 BCE)
  • Megadrought and Collapse of the Akkadian Empire (c. 2200-1900 BCE)
  • Collapse of the Hittite Empire (c. 1160 BCE)
  • Collapse of the Assyrian Empire (c. 600 BCE)
  • Nile River Flood Failure in Ptolemaic Ancient Egypt (c. 300 BCE)

Transition into the Little Ice Age (800-1500 CE)


North America

  • Rise and Fall of the City-State of Cahokia (1050-1350)
  • History of the Anasazi Puebloans in the American Southwest (1271-1285)
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Relationships to Climate (Pre-Colonialism)

The Viking Age and Norse Settlements

The Little Ice Age (1300-1850 CE)


Colonial America


Modern Age (1800s CE-present)



The Middle East

The United States

Selected Resources


  • Lieberman, B. and Gordon E. Climate Change in Human History: Prehistory to the Present. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.
  • Prothero, D. R. and Dott, R. H. Evolution of the Earth (8th ed). New York, McGraw-Hill Education, 2010.
  • Wood, G. D. Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World. Princeton University Press. 2014.