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Climate Change > Climate change in prehistory and history

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message 1: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
We can learn many lessons from past events.
Let's place books or lectures in a handy thread to show climate shifts in the past.

Having recently read The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
The Long Summer How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian M. Fagan
I found a great lecture on the subject of late Bronze Age civilisations collapsing. 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Eric Cline, PhD)
This was a globalised world with many trade routes and the lecturer says not just one or two causes, like drought and the Sea Peoples, were responsible for the collapse. He lists several and says they all came together and change results - if you watch through the questions, this included the spread of the Phoenecian alphabet into Greece and Italy.

message 2: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
The human population multiplies according to how much food it can access. When the easily cropped potato was brought from the New World, some populations became dependent on this new source of food, and increased accordingly.
A cold damp spell then produced ideal conditions for the spread of Phythoptera infestans, the potato blight fungus, which particularly attacked the large-cropping lumper potato. Ireland and Scotland experienced famine and mass starvation, population movements and poverty.

The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World
The Potato How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World by Larry Zuckerman

message 3: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
A well-written fiction about the cold medieval period is The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
The Greenlanders

The Greenlandic population was a colony from Denmark imposed on the separate seal hunter Natives. When cold and plague hit Denmark, the agricultural colony dwindled and died out, leaving only the cold adapted hunters.

message 4: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
Here's a link to a nice article about dendrochronology and Caribbean shipwrecks; cross-field science working to create new datasets of historical hurricanes.

This will help us study the future of hurricanes.

message 5: by J.R. (new)

J.R. | 7 comments Clare wrote: "Here's a link to a nice article about dendrochronology and Caribbean shipwrecks; cross-field science working to create new datasets of historical hurricanes."

Fascinating information.

message 6: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
Another way we know about changes in Earth's distant past is sea floor mud cores.

message 7: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
The correlation between the massive deaths of Native Americans when Europeans brought disease, and the Little Ice Age which followed shortly afterwards in geological time, has been made firm.
All those people would have been clearing forest and burning wood. Instead, the people died off and forests regrew. For a time.

message 8: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 2193 comments Laura Ingalls Wilder, famously described her family's entry into today's Kansas with the words: "There were no people here, only Indians."

I got that from another article in Eco-Watch.

The technologically advanced people have felled far more trees than everyone who came before them. The managed forests we have today are dysfunctional compared to what regrew in less technologically advanced times. There are far less trees on the planet since any time of human existence. It's around 400 trees per person. There is no way that 400 trees are going to make up for each vehicle we drive nor for the roads that cover the Earth to accommodate our vehicles.

The lead in picture of of the article that said Native Americans were contributing to the cause of alleviating global warming by giving up their lives through forced sacrifice was certainly appropriate for advancing the idea that since there were no European claims to the land it was freely available for European settlement.

The supposedly civilized world created the idea that supposedly technologically advanced people had more rights than less technologically advanced people. An idea that is still practiced today.

Unfortunately because this article did not include what was happening in the technologically advanced world it is half an article because by omission it implies that nothing the Europeans were doing was advancing climate change. While composed of true facts this kind of biased reporting is not going to help anyone. It is a fine example of accidental fake news, the kind that is designed to truthfully push an agenda using only half the facts.

While the Indians were dying the fires of the technologically advanced world were burning up the world in a number of ways. I suppose it would be difficult to show the amount of commercial losses that the technologically advanced world suffered during the Little Ice Age versus the amount of commercial gain it made by consuming the Natural World's resources. I would suspect the technos gained during that time, causing a net increase in climate change and destruction of the Natural World's resources.

One major difference between the fires of the technologically advanced factory style world and the Native populations was what was in the smoke. The smoke was poisonous. The supposedly advanced world had been smelting metals in their fires for a long time. The people who worked the ore and lived around those fires had lower life expectancies than those who didn't. That kind of smoke is still in existence only now it comes from many more different sources.

How Soot Killed the Little Ice Age

message 9: by Clare (last edited Feb 23, 2019 02:07AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
Thanks Robert, a fascinating article.
" throughout the relatively cool 500-year period known as the Little Ice Age, which began around the end of the thirteenth century. " Began with volcanic eruptions, which settled out gradually, but the air continued to cool. Which tallies nicely with 1492.

"by the mid-nineteenth century, the air in some Alpine valleys was thick with pollution. “Housewives in Innsbruck refrained from drying laundry outdoors,” says Kaser."
City smog but higher. Don't you love folk records.

"at around 1860, layers of glacial ice started to contain surprisingly large amounts of soot."
Because now the good folks had coal shipped up to them, and what's more the factory smoke blew on winds up to them.

Here in Dublin we always used to get a dirty, coal-smoke air whenever we got an east wind during winter. This was wind off the Continent and Britain.

message 10: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
New tree ring records from Japan show climate shifts through rainfall with periodic (400 years) floods or famines.
Near the bottom we are told:

" Nakatsuka and his colleagues believe history is spotted with many cases of multi-decadal-driven change. Some examples outside of their study are already known. Researchers in the US and Mongolia recently discovered, for instance, that Genghis Khan’s rise to power and conquest of China corresponded to a 15-year period of exceptional rainfall, which provided the great khan with the surplus livestock he needed to support an army. "

message 11: by Clare (last edited Feb 23, 2019 02:08AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
I've just corresponded with a lady author who had never heard of the Little Ice Age.
This came up because she was writing about Conquistadores and the Inca.
I told her about the records in Europe, Americas' population decline effect and sent a few links.
So I am wondering why educated, interested people have not heard of climate changes in the past.

message 12: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 2193 comments It wasn't always stated as a little ice age. It was reported as a curiosity in a lot of places as very cold weather. I first saw examples of it as pictures of people in England and Europe going everywhere on ice skates. The pictures were done as woodcuts. I saw the pictures only because I was looking at examples of woodcut pictures and happened to see them.

Googling now I find hardly any of the woodcut pictures I saw back then. There were all kinds of sleds designed for traveling on ice from personal to commercial uses. At the time I didn't realize it was that unusual until later on when I found out that the amount of ice skating and sled use wasn't the normal situation.

There is literally too much information out there to see now. College diplomas used to be good for the lifetime of the recipient. Now the information changes drastically every two years and if a person with a degree doesn't go back to school every two years, the information they know gets outdated by the way it is used and by the clarification of that information and the new information that has been added.

Sometimes the new information is the opposite of what was learned. This results in splitting streams of procedures into paths that don't cross each other and can result in actions being taken that are opposed to each other and neither one is right. Many times people will erect a crossroads for information to flow on in which a choice has to made which path will be followed. Too many times there are no crossroads, there is no choice to be made, both paths have to be followed because they compliment each other and should never have been split up in the first place.

message 13: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
You are right about the degrees, I am enjoying my current course very much and matters have really moved on since my previous one in 2010 - 11.

message 14: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
Highly recommended by me.

Europe: A Natural History

Europe A Natural History by Tim Flannery

message 15: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
World War 1 occurred as Europe experienced a climate anomaly.

"Historical accounts of early battles in France describe how the intense rain affected British, French and German troops. Newly dug trenches and tunnels filled with rainwater; muddy fields slowed the movement of troops during the day; and cold nighttime temperatures caused thousands to endure frostbite. However, little research has been done on the environmental conditions that may have caused the torrential rains and unusual cold.

In the new study, More and his colleagues reconstructed the environmental conditions over Europe during the war using data from an ice core taken from the Alps. They then compared the environmental conditions to historical records of deaths during the war years.

They found mortality in Europe peaked three times during the war, and these peaks occurred during or soon after periods of cold temperatures and heavy rain caused by extremely unusual influxes of ocean air in the winters of 1915, 1916 and 1918.

"Atmospheric circulation changed and there was much more rain, much colder weather all over Europe for six years," More said. "In this particular case, it was a once in a 100-year anomaly."

The new ice core record corroborates historical accounts of torrential rain on battlefields of the Western Front, which caused many soldiers to die from drowning, exposure, pneumonia and other infections.

Interestingly, the results suggest the bad weather may have kept mallard ducks and other migratory birds in Europe during the war years, where they could easily transmit influenza to humans by water contaminated with their fecal droppings. Mallard ducks are the main animal reservoir of H1N1 flu viruses and as many as 60 percent of mallard ducks can be infected with H1N1 every year. Previous research has shown that migratory patterns of mallards and other birds are disrupted during bouts of unusual weather.

"Mallards have been shown to be very sensitive to climate anomalies in their migration patterns," More said. "So it is likely is that they stayed put for much of that period."

The first wave of H1N1 influenza infection in Europe occurred in the spring of 1918, most likely originating among allied troops arriving in France from Asia in the fall and winter of 1917, according to previous research. The new study found the deadliest wave of the pandemic in Europe began in the autumn of 1918, closely following a period of heavy precipitation and cold temperatures."

More information: Alexander F. More et al, The Impact of a Six‐Year Climate Anomaly on the "Spanish Flu" Pandemic and WWI, GeoHealth (2020). DOI: 10.1029/2020GH000277
Provided by American Geophysical Union

message 17: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
Fall of Roman Empire occurred partly due to a sudden cold climate.
That indicated a volcano. And the culprit has just been found: in Alaska.

"Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators in 44 BCE, triggering a chain of events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the Ptolemaic Kingdom (a long standing Egyptian dynasty) and the rise of the Roman Empire. These historic political events were set against a backdrop of environmental and social instability, including unusually cold and wet weather, crop failures, famine, and disease.

New research published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified a potential catalyst for these events: the eruption of Okmok volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Historians had previously suspected a volcano, but the new research finally identifies the offending culprit, which erupted 2,063 years ago. The evidence points to a particularly powerful eruption, which had a dramatic effect on the Mediterranean climate and quite possibly its political climate as well."
"A geochemical analysis of the ice cores matched the tephra to the same time period.

“The tephra match doesn’t get any better,” explained Gill Plunkett, a scientist from Queen’s University Belfast and a co-author of the new paper, in the press release. “We compared the chemical fingerprint of the tephra found in the ice with tephra from volcanoes thought to have erupted about that time and it was very clear that the source of the 43 BCE fallout in the ice was the Okmok II eruption.”

Climate records as chronicled in tree rings and other natural sources indicates that the years 43 and 42 BCE were “among the coldest years of recent millennia in the Northern Hemisphere at the start of one of the coldest decades,” as the authors wrote in the paper. An Earth-modeling system suggested this eruption altered water cycles and season temperatures in the Mediterranean. Temperatures were as much as 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) below average during the two years after the eruption. This period was also very wet, with summer precipitation 50% to 120% above normal in southern Europe and autumn precipitation 400% above normal."

message 18: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6643 comments Mod
Southeast Asia: spreading rainforests seem to have removed the habitat for megafauna.

"From about one million years ago, forests retreated everywhere in the region and grasslands dominated. Coincident with these changes, large forest-adapted animals including Gigantopithecus and a giant panda relative disappeared from Southeast Asia’s northern parts.

Model recreation of Gigantopithecus blacki.
Gigantopithecus blacki was a large extinct ape that lived during the Pleistocene in what is now Southern China. It’s believed to have gone extinct about 300,000 years ago. Greg Williams/Flickr, CC BY-NC
Later still, around 400,000 years ago, the Southeast Asian Sunda Shelf began to submerge and climate cycles changed. Because of this, forest conditions returned.

At the same time, grassland-adapted creatures that had filled the region, including giant hyenas, stegodons, bovids and Homo erectus began to disappear – and largely went extinct by the end of the Pleistocene. The remainder were driven into the rainforests.

By the last few tens of thousands of years, we see the first evidence of stratified, closed-canopy rainforests in Southeast Asia. These have dominated the region for the past 20,000 years or so.

Rainforest-adapted species should have been advantaged by the return of the rainforests, but one interloper changed that. Homo sapiens appears to be the only species in our family tree that was able to successfully adapt to and exploit rainforest environments."

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