Relationship between Famine and Climatic Disasters in China during the Qing Dynasty

Zhudeng Wei aSchool of Geographical Science, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

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Beibei Li aSchool of Geographical Science, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

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Abstract

Famine poses a significant threat to human food security and sustainable development. This study investigates the prevalence and magnitude of famine and its connection to climatic change/disasters at different spatiotemporal scales. The famine index was reconstructed using 13 828 famine-related literature records in China during the Qing Dynasty (CE 1644–1911). The study found that extreme drought/flood events instantaneously triggered famine at the seasonal to interannual scale, leading to intermittent occurrences of great famines. Drought-induced famine was the most prominent. Famine was positively correlated with drought in both short-term variations and long-term trends across different regions. The effect of floods on famines was double-edged and varied between the north and south of China. The severe famines that occurred between 1811 and 1878 were related to both climatic cooling and an increase in drought/flood events under a situation of growing population pressure on resources. The greatest famine of 1876–78 was probably the result of long-term interactions among intensifying human–land contradictions since the early nineteenth century, periodic droughts in north China, and a weakening of regional buffering mechanisms due to flood-induced declines in south China.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wei Zhudeng, weizhudeng@126.com

Abstract

Famine poses a significant threat to human food security and sustainable development. This study investigates the prevalence and magnitude of famine and its connection to climatic change/disasters at different spatiotemporal scales. The famine index was reconstructed using 13 828 famine-related literature records in China during the Qing Dynasty (CE 1644–1911). The study found that extreme drought/flood events instantaneously triggered famine at the seasonal to interannual scale, leading to intermittent occurrences of great famines. Drought-induced famine was the most prominent. Famine was positively correlated with drought in both short-term variations and long-term trends across different regions. The effect of floods on famines was double-edged and varied between the north and south of China. The severe famines that occurred between 1811 and 1878 were related to both climatic cooling and an increase in drought/flood events under a situation of growing population pressure on resources. The greatest famine of 1876–78 was probably the result of long-term interactions among intensifying human–land contradictions since the early nineteenth century, periodic droughts in north China, and a weakening of regional buffering mechanisms due to flood-induced declines in south China.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wei Zhudeng, weizhudeng@126.com
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