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Genghis Khan and Climate Change

Normally when we read about climate change in the press, the stories center around the affect that human technology and carbon emissions have on the planet’s climate. So, we get doom and gloom, handwringing and finger-pointing stories like this one yesterday at Al Jazeera

What we tend to read less about is the manner in which climate conditions shape us. To wit, there’s …

  1. Percival

    Our technological development didn’t get the corn or the beans planted hereabouts until the last two weeks because the fields were too wet from all the rain we got in March and April.  Weather matters, and climate is weather patterns, so climate matters.

  2. Melissa O

    Well, if memory serves me correctly, the great cathedral building period in Europe coincides with the Little Medieval Warming period, so it buttresses this theory (sorry, I could resist).  In general, warming periods are associated with growth of empires and cooling periods with their decline.

    And it’s nice to hear that they are using 17 trees as the sample and going for further study of core samples, which is more than the AGW scientific crowd does…

  3. Devereaux

    This must be important research to be funded by I am sure the Vikings were much affected by the same climate changes, allowing the glaciers to retreat and give them land upon which to live and establish their society. NO, wait! That was thousands of years before.

  4. Rachel Lu
    C

    I think the “climate change” angst is sort of the apocalyptic side of the liberal tendency to “immanentize the eschaton”. 

  5. Crow
    Devereaux: This must be important research to be funded by I am sure the Vikings were much affected by the same climate changes, allowing the glaciers to retreat and give them land upon which to live and establish their society. NO, wait! That was thousands of years before. · 2 hours ago

    There is some public money from the NSF being spent here, but it is a public-private partnership (so far as I can make out from the article with NatGeo). NSF’s annual budget is about 7 billion, which isn’t breaking the bank. I suppose we can have a conversation on whether or not we ought to be funding scientific research with public dollars if anyone wishes, though that wasn’t precisely my intent here.

    Yes, there was overlap between the medieval warm period and the Viking era. Having sailed through the North Atlantic on a modern vessel in our own time during the winter, I imagine even in the Viking age, the mild warming did not ameliorate the conditions terribly much and it was still an arduous sail. But, yes, I think it would have aided them in founding colonies in Canada and Greenland. 

  6. Crow
    Rachel Lu: I think the “climate change” angst is sort of the apocalyptic side of the liberal tendency to “immanentize the eschaton”.  · 1 hour ago

    Yes, partly this, partly the new-age Gaia worship, partly the politicization of science funding dollars, partly the impulse to use the data to regulate everything and create new avenues for “rational administration”, and so on.

    Climate is changing all the time, we’re in no position to stop that and it is perfectly natural. I’m interested in examining how we’ve adapted to these natural changes in the past on this thread, and the way they may have impacted the course of human events. The Mongol hordes are just one possible example.

  7. twvolck

    Seventeen trees is a representative sample?

  8. Crow
    twvolck: Seventeen trees is a representative sample? · 8 minutes ago

    Read the full article rather than just the excerpts. The findings are preliminary, but the study is on-going and wider than just the 17 trees.

    Though, since I am not a tree-ring scientist, I can’t tell you what a representative sample in the region would mean.

  9. Rachel Lu
    C
    Crow’s Nest

    Rachel Lu: I think the “climate change” angst is sort of the apocalyptic side of the liberal tendency to “immanentize the eschaton”.  · 1 hour ago

    Yes, partly this, partly the new-age Gaia worship, partly the politicization of science funding dollars, partly the impulse to use the data to regulate everything and create new avenues for “rational administration”, and so on.

    Yes, I suppose these are all relevant. Hmm. I know that Michael Crighton was big on this sort of thing. No dramatic examples are immediately coming to my mind, although as Melissa says, the High Middle Ages (a great time for mankind in my estimation, not only for the cathedrals but also for politics, philosophy, invention and a whole host of other human goods) was supposed to have been an unusually warm period. Warmer periods tend to see more population growth, which tends to be good for civilization.

  10. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    Fascinating, thanks CN!

  11. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    [Edit: double post]

  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Crow’s Nest

    I’m interested in examining how we’ve adapted to these natural changes in the past on this thread, and the way they may have impacted the course of human events. The Mongol hordes are just one possible example.

    Read up on the Sahara when it was green. That’s prehistory, so there’s just archeological evidence. But it’s interesting.

    Crow’s Nest

    I imagine even in the Viking age, the mild warming did not ameliorate the conditions terribly much and it was still an arduous sail. But, yes, I think it would have aided them in founding colonies in Canada and Greenland. 

    The warm weather did help, though it was also unpredictable:

    [B]etween 800 and 1300 AD, the regions around the fjords of southern Greenland experienced a relatively mild climate… with trees and herbaceous plants growing and livestock being farmed. Barley was grown as a crop up to the 70th parallel….

    [T]he ice cores indicate Greenland has experienced dramatic temperature shifts many times over the past 100,000 years. Similarly the Icelandic Book of Settlements records famines during the winters in which “the old and helpless were killed and thrown over cliffs”.

  13. Foxfier
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Similarly the Icelandic Book of Settlements records famines during the winters in which “the old and helpless were killed and thrown over cliffs”.

    20 minutes ago

    Sounds like that aspect of the Pit River Indians that we’re supposed to pretend didn’t happen. 

    (mentioned less because it’s relevant than because my mom grew up with folks who saw it, and I’m horrified that we’re supposed to pretend the pits were to “catch animals.”)

  14. Hartmann von Aue
    Crow’s Nest

    Devereaux: This must be important research to be funded by I am sure the Vikings were much affected by the same climate changes, allowing the glaciers to retreat and give them land upon which to live and establish their society. NO, wait! That was thousands of years before. · 2 hours ago

    Yes, there was overlap between the medieval warm period and the Viking era. Having sailed through the North Atlantic on a modern vessel in our own time during the winter, I imagine even in the Viking age, the mild warming did not ameliorate the conditions terribly much and it was still an arduous sail. But, yes, I think it would have aided them in founding colonies in Canada and Greenland.  · 11 hours ago

    That’s almost exactly what I was going to say, Crow’s Nest.

  15. RushBabe49

    Which ALL demonstrates the most important characteristic of us humans-the reason we are at the top of the food chain.  We ADAPT to whatever nature throws our way.  We invent air-conditioning so we are able to live in very hot climates.  We develop insulation, so we are able to live in very cold climates.  And everything in between.

  16. Sabrdance

    Have a similar argument (not scientific, historic) that weather patterns in the 1520s saved Europe from the Turks.  The heavy rains of 1529 prevented a long siege of Vienna and mired all his heavy artillery on the roads.

    Author was Theodore Rabb in the first “What If” book.  (Incidentally, Victor Davis Hanson has a nice essay about what would happen if the Greeks had lost at Salamis in there too.)

    He thought it would probably not have resulted in a conquered Europe, but it might have nipped the Protestant Reformation in the bud out of the desire for unity and the weakness of the Hapsburgs.

  17. MJBubba

    The Vikings definitely benefitted from the warming period.  For all the hoo-hah about man-caused climate change, the temperature of the northern hemisphere in the 900s was warmer than now.  

    Remember that thing we were taught about how the Vikings named Greenland in a lying cynical PR move to attract settlers?  That was some boneheaded historian’s idea in the 1960s.  The fact is that Greenland was much warmer when the Vikings found it.  They raised cattle there for 150 years, by which time it had become too cold to be able to raise enough hay to winter-over the cattle.   There were no Esquimaux or polar bears in southern Greenland when the Vikings moved in; the Vikings were there exploring further and further north for 50 years before they encountered Esquimaux, who had resettled far northward in pursuit of the polar bears and seals they depended on.

  18. KC Mulville

    Nice job, CN.

    I can’t help but think of the old JFK story about talking with Eisenhower about D-Day; JFK was taken aback when Eisenhower attributed the Allied victory to the fact that “we had superior meteorologists.”

    (Yes, I know, weather is not climate.)

  19. Aaron Miller

    If only I had known all I needed to remain employed for a year or two was a theory and a tree stump!

  20. Ross C
    Crow’s Nest

    Sabrdance: Have a similar argument (not scientific, historic) that weather patterns in the 1520s saved Europe from the Turks.  The heavy rains of 1529 prevented a long siege of Vienna and mired all his heavy artillery on the roads.

    Yes, I’ve read similar accounts and am persuaded that the conditions played a role here.

    The Turks withdrew on October 17th 1529 after a heavy snowfall.  For the present day, I don’t know how often it snows in mid-October near Vienna but I suspect it is exceptionally rare.  This leads one to think that things were indeed colder during the little ice age and warmer now.

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