CCNet, 44/2000 - 5 April 2000


     "Unrest in the rural landscape provoked political response,
     sometimes draconian, sometimes revolutionary. The end of the
     feudal system coincided with the end of the Middle Ages and a
     desperate shortage of labour. Climate was a central feature of
     events in the 14th century, in the 1590s, the 17th and early 18th
     century, the 1780s and the early 19th century (culminating in the
     Napoleonic Wars and revolutionary movements in Ireland, France,
     Belgium, Poland and Switzerland). Climate, we can be sure, will
     play a role in future events, political and religious and in human
         -- Phillip Clapham

    Greening Earth Society, 3 April 2000

    CHRONOLOGY & CATASTROPHISM REVIEW, 1999 (2), pp. 49-50

    NEW SCIENTIST, 18 March 2000

    Joel Gunn <>

    F.H. Chen*), Q. Shi, J.M. Wang, LANZHOU UNIVERSITY


    The Washington Post, 3 April 2000


From Greening Earth Society, 3 April 2000


Europe is the only place on the earth with a relatively extensive
historical thermometer-based temperature record. It extends back 250
years. Several years ago, Balling et al. examined European temperature
records for 57 European stations. Some had temperature records of more
than two and a half centuries duration. Those records revealed that
Europe had in fact warmed during the period of industrialization.
Oddly, however, all of the warming occurred between 1890 and 1950 and
most of that during winter months. Furthermore, Balling et al.
concluded that urban effects had inflated the warming signal from
European cities.

Now that the records are available through January 2000, they've been
updated to see if any warming has been identifeid in Europe. As seen in
Figure 1, Europe has warmed 0.58'C over the past 250 years but, still,
the warming is largely confinded to the winter. Europe cooled slightly
from 1751 to 1890. The continent then warmed significantly from 1891
until the mid-1930s. Science then (mid-1930s to January 2000), no
temperature trend appears.

Three important lessons can be gleaned from the record:

* There has been no warming in Europe during the past 65 years.

* Despite the effects of urbanisation and the recovery from the Little
Ice Age, Europe warmed only 0.58'C over the past 250 years, with all
the warming taking place between 1890 and the mid-1930s.

* The observed warming occurred in the winter.

Finally, the European warm-up between 1890 and the mid-1930s occurred
at the same time as the sun's output increased from 1365.5Wm^2 (Watts
per meter squared) to 1366.5Wm^2. In many respects, the European
temperatures seem to be driven by solar output more than by any buildup
of greenhouse gases.

The 250-year temperature history of Europe leaves us asking. "Where's
the greenhouse signal?"


Balling, R.C., Jr, R.S. Vose, and G.-R. Weber, 1998: Analysis of
long-term European temperature records: 1751-1995. Climate Research,
10, 193-200



Book Review: The Great Wave, by David Hacket Fischer, Oxford University
Press, 1996

This is a book about economics, which may seem a million miles away
from Catastrophism but strangely it is not. The author focuses on
several great waves of inflationary growth. These are

a) a steady sequence of price rises from the late 12th to the
   early 14th century AD,
b) the early 15th to mid 17th,
c) during the 18th, from 1730-1800 and
d) the current wave which began in the 1890s.

Fischer draws a connection between waves of rising prices and
increasing population pressure. The interregnums between a) and b)
and between b) and c) coincided with rapid population declines (famine,
war and disease) while the other interregnum coincided with the
beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, which sucked up surplus
labour.  The author also draws a connection with climate - the Little
Ice Ages, famines and bad harvests.

The importance of this book, it seems to me, is that the dates he
assigns to these price changes actually match dates highlighted by
dendrochronological blips in the weather (cf. Mike Baillie, A Slice
Through Time, Batsford, 1996). Clearly, something was happening which
affected prices and crop yields. Peasant revolts against millers and
bakers, property owning elites and the great abbeys and monastic
estates were a quite common consequence. Climate and price changes also
affected music, art, and literature. For example, the comedies of
Shakespeare are separated by his tragedies and famine and hardship in
the 1590s. Cultural epochs such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment
and the reign of Queen Victoria coincided with phases of price
stability and social equilibrium. They also coincided with low
population densities.

I find it intriguing that Fischer's first great inflationary surge is
dated as beginning in AD1180 (see Emilio Spedicato, 'Tunguska-type
Impacts over the Pacific Basin around the year 1178AD, C&CR 1998:1, pp.
8-12). Wet summers throughout Western Europe led to low crop yields in
conjunction with a large population. The period 1260-1320 was marked by
repeated bad harvests. In 1314 the temperature plummeted, rain fell
incessantly in Britain and crops rotted in the fields.  Parliament
asked Edward II to impose price controls on farm products but the
harvest of 1315 was even worse. In Scotland rebellion brewed, dikes
collapsed in England and Holland, fields were washed away in France,
villages were overwhelmed in Germany - and there was a universal crop
failure. These same dates show up spectacularly in dendrochronology
charts (see Baillie). In 1316, torrential rain continued to fall and
famine persisted. A cluster of wars broke out between 1290 and 1340.
The Pope, unpopular because of despotism, fled to Avignon in 1305. In
England the nobility despatched Edward II, Denmark fell into anarchy,
Sweden had civil war and the Holy Roman Empire disappeared. In the
1340s came Black Death. Plague is thought to have taken the lives of
25-40% of the European population. A similar thing happened in the
Islamic world, which was subsequently annexed by the Ottoman Turks. The
100 Years War, 1337-1453, reduced whole regions of France to anarchy
and despair. The 14th century was a dark age, all around the world.

In contrast, the period 1450-1500 was noted for its price stability.
Low population levels were able to increase without economic stress. In
Russia Ivan the Great flourished, in France Louis XI and in England
Henry VII, the first of the Tudors - contemporary with the Ottoman
sultans. The Renaissance blossomed in Italy but in the 1490s things
began to happen. In 1492 the sky turned black above Florence and a
brilliant bolt of lightning struck Brunelleschi's soaring architectural
masterpiece. Lorenzo de Medici died suddenly and the prosperity of the
city slumped.  The Italian city states squabbled amongst themselves and
a French army crossed the Alps and defeated Florence. Riots and famine
in the countryside followed. The empire of Venice was gobbled up by
the Ottomans and the French.  Rome was sacked in 1527.

Famine and low crop yields in the 1490s were common throughout Europe.
Inflation increased yearly, as did population numbers. The Reformation
and Counter Reformation shattered the Church. Religious conflicts of
extraordinary viciousness broke out in every corner of the continent.
The impetus seems to have been a sudden surge in food prices in 1564-66
after a series of bad harvests (affecting the Low Countries, England,
France, Scandinavia and Switzerland etc.). In Germany, the Peasants'
War was particularly violent. In 1529 there had been widespread famine
and starvation and in 1594-8 four harvests in a row failed. In England
an epidemic in the 1550s killed one third of the rural population. The
1590s were so cold that Alpine glaciers expanded into valleys lower
down the slopes, swallowing villages.

This led to economic depression - and wars broke out. The 30 Years War
was a disaster for Central Europe. The English and the Scots clashed.
The Covenanters rose up and there was rebellion in Ireland. Civil war
and revolts broke out in England, Sicily, Crete, Austria, Bavaria,
Poland, Bohemia, the Ukraine and even Provence. The Enlightenment of
the late 17th century coincided with a reduced population and stable
price levels. Bach and Handel and their music encapsulate the era.
However, episodes of famine brought about by bad weather and poor
harvests continued to be a problem, with temporary surges in prices in
the 1670s, 1696s, and in 1708/9 and 1713. The weather became very wet
and extremely cold.  Arctic pack ice expanded so far south that Eskimos
in their kayaks are reputed to have turned up in Scottish waters.

In North America, 1816 was the 'year without a summer', with frost
during every month. In Europe 1814-18 was marked by very harsh winters
and cold wet summers. Economic recovery took hold in the 1820s and
prices remained stable until 1896 (a blip in the 1840s was short-lived
but had political repercussions in Central Europe and elsewhere).
Nicolson's History of Skye, (Maclean Press, Portree, 1994) records
similar dates: 1688 had storms and torrential rainfall and subsequent
hungry mouths; the early 18th century (1715-20) and the 1780s had
adverse weather, resulting in a severe famine; bad weather in 1807 and
1817 led to starvation; potato blight played havoc during three wet
summers in the 1840s.  We may also note that in England there were
Bread Riots in 1795, the Luddite Riots in 1811-17 and the Chartist
radical movement in the 1840s.

Fischer briefly looks at the Roman period and notes price fluctuations
which correspond exactly with Baillie's dendrochronology 'blips' in the
4th century BC, 220-IOBC, 40BC, the 3rd and 5th centuries AD (no
reliable price information exists for the 6th century AD). One of the
things that bothered me about Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision was that
his catastrophes came to an abrupt end in 687BC - despite ample
evidence of further problems in the 640s which led to the collapse of
the Assyrian empire. Clube and Napier's theory was immediately
attractive because it brought disasters down further - to the 6th
century AD. Climate change, possibly as a result of dust and debris
from Clube and Napier's theoretical comet, caused northern barbarians
to seek out the sunnier climes of southern Europe in the 3rd century AD
and again in the 5th and 6th centuries. Harsh weather on the Steppes
drove tribes to move both eastwards and westwards.

The Little Ice Ages, it can be seen, were not lengthy periods of
climatic change, as once suggested by earlier investigators, but very
short and very cold blips which can clearly be seen in the
dendrochronological record. Coupled with wet summers these were
disastrous for subsistence peasant farmers.

Unrest in the rural landscape provoked political response, sometimes
draconian, sometimes revolutionary. The end of the feudal system
coincided with the end of the Middle Ages and a desperate shortage of
labour. Climate was a central feature of events in the 14th century, in
the 1590s, the 17th and early 18th century, the 1780s and the early
19th century (culminating in the Napoleonic Wars and revolutionary
movements in Ireland, France, Belgium, Poland and Switzerland). 
Climate, we can be sure, will play a role in future events, political
and religious and in human demographics.

Phillip Clapham

Copyright 2000, Chronology & Catastrophism Review


From NEW SCIENTIST, 18 March 2000

BLOWN AWAY (Book review)

Exactly how does a civilisation die? Nicholas Saunders on the
search for an answer to this puzzle

Catastrophe: A Quest for the Origins of the Modern World by David
Keys, Ballantine, $25, ISBN 0345408764 336

AN AGREEABLE climate, a landscape dotted with vineyards and rich fields
stretching above sheltered bays-what more could a holidaymaker want?
Good links with the capital city, theatres, races, yachts? Both towns
had them. A dead volcano added a touch of drama to the view.

Sadly, both inhabitants and holidaymakers were wrong about the volcano.
After the briefest of warnings-a shower of ash and cinder that was
ignored by most-a deadly pyroclastic blast buried them. The surrounding
countryside was covered in a slurry of lava, poisonous superheated
gases and ash. In just a few hours Pompeii and Herculaneum were
destroyed. Roman civilisation itself died eventually, but in contrast
to Pompeii's demise this was a long drawn-out affair. There was no
sudden catastrophe that wiped out emperor and army, citizen and slave.
The death of a civilisation is obviously a complex phenomenon.

Thousands of societies have flourished and faded, and what constitutes
a civilisation differs from culture to culture. The word itself comes
from civis, meaning city, clearly implying that city dwellers are
civilised. Civilised people have stable structures for governing,
create networks for trade, and encourage the arts and crafts.

Archaeologists spend their lives sifting the evidence and offering
possible interpretations-and all of these are open to future revision.
Only rarely, as with Pompeii's volcanic burial in AD 79 or the El Nino
of around AD 600 which devastated coastal Peru, do natural phenomena
provide the sole answer. More commonly, the wounds are self-inflicted.
For example, it was deforestation that slowly destroyed the ancient
civilisations of the peoples of the Mediterranean basin. Trees were
felled for fuel, tools, building materials-and more. As cities and
populations grew, the demand for wood rose-by late Roman times, wood
was being imported into Italy from the surrounding provinces. Trees and
ground cover were also being consumed faster than they could replenish
themselves as goat-keeping spread round the Mediterranean lands.
Topsoil was exposed to sun and wind, became eroded and choked waterways
and marshlands, leaving the semi-arid landscape that remains today.  On
Easter Island, the incomers had a similar effect on the land: they used
up wood faster than it could grow. The last trees perished a few
hundred years ago.

While modern archaeological techniques reveal ever more of the past,
the big idea still holds sway over our imaginations. We remain
attracted to the notion of a single solution to ancient mysteries,
particularly those that apparently reveal what centuries of scholarship
have overlooked.

In Catastrophe, David Keys appears to be following the same well-worn
path, and his "prime movers" are huge natural disasters. The book is
written as an account of a quest, but before he reveals the secret, he
treats readers to a selective account of the past 1500 years of world
history.  We rove from the origins of Islam, through Chinese history,
the demise of the Romans, the kingdoms of the Franks and the Visigoths
to England in the Dark Ages. Keys is hammering home a single point:
around AD 535 there was a cataclysm that shattered global weather
patterns. Social, economic and religious upheavals followed, setting
off a chain of events that created the modern world.

Keys puts a lot of emphasis on the Americas. But while he reveals
undoubted evidence that the region's dramatic climatic regimes had
major effects on the civilisations there, he also shows a woeful
ignorance of the wider picture. In discussing the pre-Inca Huari
people of the Andes, he tells us that their invention of agricultural
terracing was a response to the drought between AD 540 and AD 570. But
the existence of larger earthworks in lowland South America belies this
idea. He also says that the Huari religion was based on a solar deity
whose descendant was the Inca Sun god. He suggests that this was an
imperial tradition arising from the cultural responses to the climatic
events of the 6th century-and that this belief survived to blend with
Spanish Christianity hundreds of years later.

Unfortunately, the American case studies are riddled with errors of
detail that undermine the general principles of his argument. Give or
take a few highways, the imperial Inea road system was built by the
Incas, not their Huari predecessors. Water rituals were always a
feature of pre-Columbian Peru and not merely a response to a severe
drought. Similarly in Mexico, ancient gods at the huge metropolis of
Teotihuacan cannot be identified solely by 700-year-old hearsay what
the Aztecs are supposed to have told the Spanish. The Spanish put out
too much propaganda for us to believe everything they said.

Keys then turns to what might have caused the climatic upheaval. First
he reviews and rejects a collision between the Earth and an asteroid.
Neither was it a comet impact. Eventually, Keys reveals the cataclysmic
secret-a giant volcanic explosion. The most likely candidate is one of
two calderas that flank the one produced in 1883 by the explosion of
Krakatoa in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

In revelatory fashion, the author says that modern science has
overlooked a crucial Javanese source, The Book of Ancient Kings. 
While most regard this as an example of late 19th-century anti-colonial
mythmaking, Keys sees it as preserving an account of an explosion
around AD 416explaining away' the eighty-year discrepancy as the result
of Javanese textual distortions and misunderstandings.

Catastrophe is a book of our time, though. It offers a seductively easy
view of the past to a world beset by increasing climatic extremes and
dire warnings for the future. Keys hits the right note for a modern age
obsessed with disasters. By reducing the incredible diversity of human
history to a checklist of dates, however, we are all diminished, and
the true relationships between culture and nature are obscured.

Nicholas Saunders is in the department of anthropology, University
College London

Copyright 2000, NEW SCIENTIST


From Joel Gunn <>

Carole, I am sure there are many criticisms of Keys' volcanic eruption
explanation for 536. There is a big discussion in England over
extraterrestrial forcing now. I thought Keys argument for a big volcano
was very interesting. I have asked people who should know if there was
a way for a near miss with a comet to leave cosmic dust in orbit to
rain down over two years. The consensus seems to be they it could not. 
I don't see why not, but I don't really have the expertise to know
about interactions in the upper atmosphere. On the other hand, Keys is
suggesting a very large eruption with a 30 mile high ejection. That
might be high enough to orbit dust. He evolves his argument around
sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere, but the that does not explain
the "dry fog" which most people think is actual dust. There were other
dry fogs in Europe from Icelandic volcanoes of shorter duration. 
Ordinarily dust only stays in the air a few weeks or months so it
either had to be a large number of eruptions, something Rampino and
Self suggested a long time ago, or perhaps the new kid on the block, a
very high eruption. 



F.H. Chen*), Q. Shi, J.M. Wang: Environmental changes documented by
sedimentation of Lake Yiema in arid China since the Late Glaciation
JOURNAL OF PALEOLIMNOLOGY, 1999, Vol.22, No.2, pp.159-169


In this study, a 6 m long core (16,000 BP) at the center of the dry
Lake Yiema, a closed lake of Shiyang River drainage in  Minqin Basin of
the arid northwestern China, was retrieved to recover the history of
climate changes and lake evolution in the area. Five radiocarbon dates
on organic matter were obtained. A chronological sequence is
established based on these five dates and other dates from nearby
sites. Magnetic susceptibility, particle size and chemical composition
were analysized for climate proxies. The proxies indicate that a drier
climate prevailed in the Shiyang River drainage during the last
glacial. Lake Yiema was dry and eolian sand covered most part of the
lake basin. During the early and middle Holocene, a moister climate
prevailed in the drainage. Climate became dry stepwise with an abrupt
transition from one stage to another during the entire Holocene and
became driest since about 4,200 BP. Maximum dry climate spells occurred
at about 12,000-10,000 BP and after about 4,200 BP. A dry climate event
also existed at about 7,600 BP. Periodical sand storms with about
400-yr cycle happened during the middle Holocene. Desiccation processes
of the lake started at 4,200 BP, and were accelerated since the last
2,500 yrs by the inflow water diversion for agriculture irrigation.
During the past 2,500 yrs, the lake size has been closed associated
with the human population, implying that the human impact has been
accelerating the lake desiccation superimposed on the natural
climate deterioration. Copyright 2000, Institute for Scientific
Information Inc.


J.C.G. Walker: Earth system science and the western worldview
CHEMICAL GEOLOGY, 1999, Vol.161, No.1-3, pp.365-371


Earth system science has influenced and continues to influence our
understanding of the relationship between humans and nature. The first
important lessons were that our planet is not the center of the
universe and we are not the goal and culmination of evolution.
Awareness of earth system evolution liberated humankind from the
constraints of a world once thought to be unchanging and unchangeable.
But the discovery of change in nature raises questions about limits.
Quantitative exploration of the natural world has taught us that there
are material limits on what humans can do, and that humans suffer when
these limits are ignored. We are beginning to see indications that we
may not be able to understand, predict, and control the natural world
as we can understand, predict, and control what happens in the
laboratory. There may be intellectual as well as material limits on
human aspirations. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


From The Washington Post, 3 April 2000

Ex-Uganda Sect Member Speaks Out

By Craig Nelson
Associated Press Writer
Monday, April 3, 2000; 6:34 a.m. EDT

KANUNGU, Uganda –– The unfulfilled prophecy of a Christian doomsday
sect cost the faith of loyal followers, and perhaps their lives, as
they started to challenge the cult's leaders, a surviving 17-year-old
cult member said.

Peter Ahimbisibwe's allegation came Sunday as dignitaries joined
residents of Kanungu and nearby villages in southwestern Uganda. They
condemned the deaths of 924 members of the reclusive sect who
authorities say were killed by their leaders.

Until Sunday, no sect member, past or present, had confirmed the common
belief here: The failure of the world to end Dec. 31 led members to
demand belongings they had surrendered to join the Movement for the
Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God – a challenge that allegedly
led to retaliation by sect leaders.

A March 17 blaze inside the chapel of the sect's secretive compound in
Kanungu burned 530 sect members alive. Authorities initially termed the
deaths a mass suicide, but the discovery of the bodies of six slain men
in a compound latrine soon shifted that assessment to murder.

Since then, mass graves at three other compounds linked to the cult
have yielded 388 more bodies, many stabbed and strangled. The pungent
scent of rotting bodies emanating Sunday from a latrine in the main
Kanungu compound suggested the toll could still rise.

Today, police investigators were headed to a fifth sect site to search
for more bodies and clues.


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