Science! Barley Sheds Light On Ancient Climate Change

Beer science!

Civilization depends on beer. We all know this, yes? Using this basis of wisdom, scientists have gazed upon barley grain samples to study the effects of climate change on ancient societies. It seems that carbon isotopes in barley vary with water availability. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but the upshot is that droughts screw with people in a big way.

The barley analysis indicates that drought stress was indeed an issue for these ancient societies, “but its regional impact was diverse and influenced by geographic factors.”

For example, coastal farmers were largely unaffected by the droughts and grew copious amounts of barley for beer, bread, and other staples. Further inland, societies were forced to adapt when rains failed to materialize. Some developed irrigation systems. Others switched to more drought tolerant crops.

Right then. So the lesson is that we should all panic, obviously.

The good news for beer drinkers is that most of the country’s barley is grown in the Pacific Northwest and Great Plains, which are not currently as severely impacted by drought. “There are some hop and barley farms in California, it is just not a tremendous amount of volume,” [Cheri Chastain, the sustainability coordinator for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.] said. “It is more the orchard crops. They are struggling.”

Oh, it’s all good then. Screw the orchard crops. Read the whole thing here.