CCNet 61/2001 - 27 April 2001

"However, such impacts may not be a threat to our civilization in a
couple of hundred years, as we should then have the technological
know-how to detect and deflect such large potentially impacting bodies
--Laurance R. Doyle,, 26 April 2001

"A dramatic life-and-death game of planetary survival is taking
place inside a gigantic cloud of gas and dust 1,500 light-years from
Earth, and the outcome could have far-reaching implications for the number
of planets in our Milky Way galaxy."
--Spaceflight Now, 27 April 2001

"Should one federal agency get sole custody of the universe? The
question came up in a mysterious little item buried in President Bush's
budget blueprint. It proposed that federal funding of ground-based
astronomy research be switched from the National Science Foundation
to NASA, which funds primarily research conducted in space."
--Kathy Sawyer, Washington Post, 27 April 2001

    The Hamilton Spectator Online, 26 April 2001

    NASA Science News, 27 April 2001

    Ron Baalke <>


    MSNBC, 27 April 2001

    Washington Post, 27 April 2001

    Spaceflight Now, 27 April 2001

    PhysicsWeb, 24 April 2001

    European Space, Agency, 27 April 2001

     Hermann Burchard <>

     Andrei Ol'khovatov <>

     Michael Paine <>

     Konrad Ebisch <>


From The Hamilton Spectator Online, 26 April 2001

Kate Barlow
The Hamilton Spectator

Scientists are working to unlock the secrets of a billions-of-years-old
chunk of space metal found in a Hagersville farmer's field. Almost certainly
a meteorite, the 30-kilogram chunk of iron, nickel and other minerals is
most likely to have started life as the core of a small doomed planet formed
early in the history of our solar system.

Meteorites are the only direct evidence, apart from lunar samples, of the
composition of matter outside Earth. They are gifts from the solar system
and important in the study of how it was formed.

Richard Herd, curator of the National Meteoric Collection of Canada at
Natural Resources Canada, says only 58 meteorites have been identified in
Canada since 1842. Most of the 10,000 tonnes of debris regularly floating in
space either burns up during its fiery passage through the atmosphere or
falls into the Earth's oceans to lie forever undisturbed.

"The chances of finding one are relatively rare," said Herd.

The rock was discovered two years ago by Hagersville farmer Joseph Mahe
while removing rocks that had emerged in his fields after the winter freeze.



From NASA Science News, 27 April 2001

The Mysterious Case of Crater Giordano Bruno

A band of 12th century sky watchers saw something big hit the Moon 800 years
ago. Or did they? A new study suggests the event was a meteoritic trick of
the eye.

April 26, 2001 -- Imagine the shock and amazement of five people who, in
1178 A.D., spied what appeared to be "fire, hot coals, and sparks" bursting
forth from the Moon! Apparently something (and it was big) must have hit
Earth's satellite.

What was it they saw? Until recently many astronomers thought that
well-chronicled event coincided with the formation of lunar crater Giordano
Bruno -- the youngest substantial impact feature on the Moon. But that
popular idea doesn't hold up under scientific scrutiny, says Paul Withers of
the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Such an impact would have triggered a blizzard-like, week-long meteor storm
on Earth -- yet there are no accounts of such a storm in any known
historical record, including the European, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese and
Korean astronomical archives. Withers reported his analysis and other tests
of the hypothesis in this month's issue of Meteoritics and Planetary

About an hour after sunset on June 18, 1178 A.D., a band of five
eyewitnesses watched as the upper horn of the bright, new crescent Moon
"suddenly split in two. From the midpoint of this division a flaming torch
sprang up, spewing out . . . fire, hot coals and sparks. . .The body of the
moon, which was below writhed. . .throbbed like a wounded snake." The
phenomenon recurred another dozen times or more, the witnesses reported.

A geologist suggested in 1976 that this account is consistent with the
location and age of the 22-kilometer (14-mile) lunar crater Giordano Bruno,
the youngest crater of its size or larger on the Moon.

Based on the size of the crater, it must have been a one-to-three kilometer
wide (a half-mile to almost 2-mile wide) asteroid that blasted Giordano
Bruno into the Moon's northeast limb. Such an impact on the Earth would be
"civilization threatening" -- so it is important to know if such an event
happened on the Moon less than a millennium ago, Withers noted.

The impact would have launched 10 million tons of ejecta into the Earth's
atmosphere in the following week, previous studies have shown. In the
Meteoritics article, Withers reports his calculations on the properties of
the subsequent meteor storm.

Left: The impact of a meteorite large enough to form Giordano Bruno would
have unleashed a major meteor storm, Withers calculated, comparable to the
1966 Leonids meteor shower pictured here. (During the '66 storm, as many as
100,000 meteors per hour were recorded in some locations.) [click on the
picture for more information on the '66 Leonids meteor storm]

"I calculate that this would cause a week-long meteor storm comparable to
the peak of the 1966 Leonids," he sad. Ten million tons of rock showering
the entire Earth as pieces of ejecta about a centimeter across (inch-sized
fragments) for a week is equivalent to 50,000 meteors each hour.

"And they would be very bright, very easy to see, at magnitude 1 or
magnitude 2. It would have been a spectacular sight to see! Everyone around
the world would have had the opportunity to see the best fireworks show in
history," Withers said.

Yet no vigilant 12th century sky watcher reported such a storm.

So what did the witnessess see that the Canterbury monk recorded?

"I think they happened to be at the right place at the right time to look up
in the sky and see a meteor that was directly in front of the moon, coming
straight towards them," Withers said. This idea was strongly suggested by
others in a 1977 scientific paper.

Right: Video footage of a meteor streaking through the atmosphere during the
2000 Leonid meteor shower, captured by George Varros of Mount Airy, MD.
Withers believes those five ancient sky-watchers might have seen the fiery
display of such a meteor traveling along their line of sight rather than an
impact on the moon.

"And it was a pretty spectacular meteor that burst into flames in the
Earth's atmosphere -- fizzling, bubbling, and spluttering. If you were in
the right one-to-two kilometer patch on Earth's surface, you'd get the
perfect geometry," he said. "That would explain why only five people are
recorded to have seen it.

"Imagine being in Canterbury on that June evening and seeing the moon
convulse and spray hot, molten rock into space, " Withers added. "The
memories of it would live with you for the rest of your life."


From Ron Baalke <>


ISS Space Shuttles Examined for Debris Impacts

Two Space Shuttles, Discovery (OV-103) and Endeavour (OV-105), have recently
been examined for orbital debris and meteoroid impacts following missions to
the International Space Station (ISS) late last year.  Both exhibited
numerous impacts on a variety of inspected orbiter surfaces,
covering more than 200 m2. 

Discovery visited ISS last year on the STS-92 mission for seven days of its
13-day flight in October 2000. A total of 38 impacts were identified on the
orbiter window thermal panes from orbital debris (9), meteoroid (7), and
unknown (22) particles. The largest impact feature with a diameter of nearly
1 cm was apparently caused by collision with a small paint particle. Three
of Discovery's thermal panes were subsequently replaced.

Six impacts (3 orbital debris, 1 meteoroid, and 2 unknown) were found on the
radiators with three of these achieving penetration.  The largest radiator
impact site was approximately three-quarters of a millimeter in extent and
was caused by a meteoroid strike.  Four other impacts were
also discovered: three on the flexible reusable surface insulation (FRSI)
covering the external payload bay doors and one on the vertical stabilizer.
Of these, two were meteoroids, one was orbital debris, and one was of
unknown material.

In December Endeavour conducted the 11-day STS-97 mission, which again
included seven days docked to ISS.  Although the number of identified window
impacts decreased to 30, the number of impacts to the radiators and the FRSI
(12 and 6, respectively) actually increased compared to the longer duration
STS-92.  A total of two windows were replaced.  Of the 12 radiator impacts,
only one penetrated the thin aluminum sheet, but two struck the
silver-teflon-aluminum doubler installed recently to protect the radiator
coolant loops.  Four additional impact sites were found on the leading edges
of the orbiter wings, two from orbital debris particles and two from unknown

Overall, the number of identified impactors of all sizes is roughly evenly
divided between orbital debris and meteoroids.  However, a significant
number of impactors cannot be identified by type, particularly for the
smaller window strikes. Complete inspection details are provided in STS-92
Orbiter Meteoroid/Orbital Debris Impact Damage Analysis, JSC-29318, January
2001, and STS-97 Orbiter Meteoroid/Orbital Debris Impact Damage Analysis,
JSC-29373, March 2001.


A related technical article "International Space Station Debris Avoidance
Operations" is available in the same issue of the newsletter at .


Frpm, 26 April 2001

Circumstellar Habitable Zones V: Planning Far Ahead

By Laurance R. Doyle
Special to

In a previous article we talked about the possible impact of a comet or
asteroid on Earth. This has happened before -- certainly at the
Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary when the dinosaurs became extinct along with
many other species.

The main problem (besides tidal waves a half-mile high and huge areas of
burning forests) was that the dust thrown up in the atmosphere blocked out
the Sun's light for an extensive time. Our planet runs on photosynthesis.

However, such impacts may not be a threat to our civilization in a couple of
hundred years, as we should then have the technological know-how to detect
and deflect such large potentially impacting bodies routinely.

Of greater long-term concern are: the evolution of the Sun, the Moon's
stabilizing influence and the evolution of nearby giant stars, as well as
events on an intergalactic scale.



From MSNBC, 27 April 2001

Do you think asteroid or comet impacts may have influenced hominid
* 5248 responses
Such impacts had no effect on human societies. 10%
Such impacts could have affected societies, but they didn't play a role in
the rise of Homo sapiens. 21%
Such impacts could have played a role in eliminating hominid species. 55%
None of the above. 14%
From The Washington Post, 27 April 2001
By Kathy Sawyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2001; Page A21

Should one federal agency get sole custody of the universe?

The question came up in a mysterious little item buried in President Bush's
budget blueprint. It proposed that federal funding of ground-based astronomy
research be switched from the National Science Foundation to NASA, which
funds primarily research conducted in space.



From Spaceflight Now, 27 April 2001

A dramatic life-and-death game of planetary survival is taking place inside
a gigantic cloud of gas and dust 1,500 light-years from Earth, and the
outcome could have far-reaching implications for the number of planets in
our Milky Way galaxy.

The good news is that NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is giving astronomers
the first direct visual evidence for the growth of planet "building blocks"
inside dust disks around dozens of stars in the giant Orion Nebula - the
nearest, large "star-factory" to Earth.

The bad news is that other observations suggest that any fledgling planets
must try to quickly "beat the clock" by forming before they are evaporated
away by a blistering flood of radiation from the nebula's brightest star.
Called Theta 1 Orionis C, the star is part of the nebula's central Trapezium
cluster and is visible through a small telescope.

In new research published today in Science Magazine, John Bally of the
University of Colorado in Boulder and Henry Throop of the Southwest Research
Institute, also in Boulder, used Hubble to assess if planets were beginning
to grow in million-year-old dusty disks in Orion.



From PhysicsWeb, 24 April 2001

[26 Apr 2001] The intensity of galactic cosmic rays measured on Earth is
related to the Sun's cycle of activity, which is well known by astronomers.
The solar magnetic field flips every 11 years and the number of sunspots and
'coronal mass ejections' rises and falls twice in each complete 22-year
cycle. The cosmic ray intensity on Earth also peaks twice every 22 years in
time with the solar cycle. Now two US astronomers have discovered a quirk in
this pattern - and they believe that drifting coronal mass ejections could
be to blame (E W Cliver and A G Ling 2001 Astrophys. J. Lett. 551 L189).

Edward Cliver, of the Air Force Research Laboratory in Massachusetts, and
Alan Ling, of Redex Inc in Massachusetts, compared numbers of sunspots -
dark patches on the disk of the sun caused by local magnetic fields - and
measurements of galactic cosmic rays dating back to 1951. The sharp fall in
cosmic ray intensity that occurs every 11-years is closely related to the
rise in the number of sunspots. "We were studying this relationship when we
noticed that the cosmic ray curve lagged behind the rise in the number of
sunspots by about a year - but only during alternate solar cycles", Cliver
told PhysicsWeb. In the intervening cycles, the two trends occur almost

The researchers suspect that the alternating pattern is rooted in the
reversal of the Sun's magnetic field every 11 years. They propose that
cosmic rays preferentially approach the Sun from the direction of its poles
when the magnetic field lines are pointing out of the Northern hemisphere.
When the magnetic field flips, cosmic rays tend to approach equatorial
regions of the Sun. But astronomers also know that coronal mass ejections
(CMEs) - colossal streams of gas that erupt from the Sun's surface - tend to
occur close to the Sun's equator early in the solar cycle, and later migrate
towards the poles.

Cliver and Ling propose that when cosmic rays impinge on the solar poles
early in an 11-year cycle, they do not encounter CMEs. But cosmic rays do
meet CMEs when they approach the equator at this time in the solar cycle.
This means that the interaction of cosmic rays with the strong magnetic
fields of CMEs affects the intensity of cosmic rays on Earth. "This would
account for the systematic lag we observed", says Cliver. As the CMEs drift
polewards about a year into the cycle, the cosmic ray profile returns to

There are many uncertainties inherent in predicting long-term trends from
relatively short-term measurements, as Cliver and Ling point out. But the
pattern is clearly evident from the data so far.

©IOP Publishing Ltd 2001.


From European Space, Agency, 27 April 2001

27-Apr-2001 Anyone troubled by storms on the Sun will now have an extra
week's early warning of eruption risks, by courtesy of the SOHO spacecraft.
Teams in France and the USA have found two different ways of detecting
activity on the Sun's far side, before it swings into view from the Earth.
SOHO's SWAN instrument sees ultraviolet rays sweeping like a lighthouse beam
across interplanetary gas beyond the Sun, while the MDI instrument peers
right through the Sun to locate hidden sunspots and their active regions.
From today, both teams are making their observations available routinely to
everyone, including the forecasters of space weather.

The announcement of these new far-side services coincides with the
celebration of Sun-Earth Day 2001, by the European Space Agency, NASA and
other agencies. It also marks the fifth anniversary of the commissioning of
the European-built SOHO, in April 1996, and the formal start at that time of
the observations with a dozen sets of clever solar instruments. European and
US scientific teams contributed the instruments to this project of
international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

"What started as unusual research has become an everyday tool," notes
Jean-Loup Bertaux of the CNRS Service d'Aéronomie near Paris, who leads the
French-Finnish team responsible for the SWAN instrument. "We should no
longer be taken by surprise by highly active regions that suddenly come into
view as the Sun rotates."

The Sun takes roughly four weeks to turn completely around on its axis, but
active regions can appear and grow in only a few days. So until two years
ago, no one had any way of telling when an active region might come 'around
the corner' - perhaps blazing away with eruptions as soon as it appeared. If
an active region can be detected in the middle of the far side it will
appear on the eastern (left-hand) side of the visible disk about seven days
later. The SWAN team announced the telltale ultraviolet observations in June

In March 2000 Charles Lindsey of Tucson, Arizona, and Doug Braun of Boulder,
Colorado, reported that they had detected, with SOHO's MDI, sound waves
reflected from far-side sunspots. Speeded by the intense magnetic fields
associated with sunspot regions, the sound waves arrived a few seconds early
at the Sun's near-side face, compared with sound waves from sunspot-free
regions. Decoding MDI data from a million points on the Sun's near side, to
obtain an impression of the far side, uses a technique called helioseismic
holography and requires a powerful computer.

Both discoveries were made retrospectively from SOHO's archives. Since then
teams have streamlined their data gathering and analyses to the point where
they can offer routine long-range forecasts of intense solar activity based
on far-side foresight. The techniques are complementary, with MDI seeing the
sunspot regions and SWAN reporting how active they are.

"When we started work with SOHO five years ago, most experts thought it
would be impossible to see right through the Sun," comments Philip Scherrer
of Stanford University, principal investigator for the MDI instrument. "Now
we do it regularly in real time. For practical purposes we've made the Sun

Although conceived for scientific research, SOHO has proved invaluable as a
watchdog for spotting sunstorms. Forecasters already rely heavily on SOHO's
round-the-clock observations of flares and mass ejections that can have
harmful effects on satellites, power lines and other technological systems.
The new long-range, far-side forecasts may be especially useful for
scheduling manned space operations, during which astronauts might be exposed
to dangerous particles from solar explosions.

Watching the solar striptease

SOHO examines the Sun from a vantage point 1.5 million kilometres out, on
the sunward side of the Earth. Its instruments probe the Sun from its
nuclear core, through its turbulent interior and stormy atmosphere, and all
the way out to the Earth's orbit and beyond, where a non-stop stream of
atomic nuclei and electrons travels outwards as the solar wind. To the naked
eye the Sun looks calm and unchanging, but for SOHO it has performed a
dramatic striptease. Here are just ten of the revelations.

The Sun's surprising heart beat. Currents of gas far beneath the visible
surface speed up and slacken again every 16 months - a wholly unexpected
pulse-rate. It was detected by combining data from SOHO and a US-led network
of ground stations called GONG.

Brighter sunbeams. Watching minute by minute and year by year, SOHO has seen
the Sun brighten, as expected, by 0.1 per cent while the count of sunspots
increased during 1996-2000. By studying the variations in detail, scientists
estimate that high-energy ultraviolet rays from the Sun have become 3 per
cent stronger over the past 300 years.

Eruptions coming our way. Most of the explosive outbursts of gas from the
Sun, called coronal mass ejections, miss the Earth. Only SOHO can reliably
identify those heading in our direction, by linking expanding haloes around
the Sun to shocks seen in the Earth-facing atmosphere. Engineers then have
2-3 days' warning of possible effects in the Earth's vicinity.

Thousands of explosions every day. A reason why the Sun's atmosphere is far
hotter than its visible surface is a non-stop succession of small
explosions, observed by SOHO. They result from a continual rearrangement of
tangled magnetic fields.

The sources of the solar wind. SOHO sees gas leaking from the corners of a
magnetic honeycomb of gas bubbles, mainly in polar regions, to supply a fast
solar wind. Nearer the Sun's equator, a slow wind escapes from the edges of
wedge-shaped features called helmets.

Accelerating the solar wind. Charged atoms feeding the fast wind gain speed
very rapidly - evidently driven by strong magnetic waves in the Sun's outer
atmosphere. Similar magnetic waves may accelerate the slow wind too,
although many mass ejections also contribute to it.

Elements in the solar wind. SOHO detected phosphorus, chlorine, potassium,
titanium, chromium and nickel for the first time, and previously unseen
isotopes of six commoner elements. These give clues to conditions on the
Sun, and also to Solar-System history.

Gigantic sunquakes. After a solar flare, SOHO sees waves rushing across the
Sun's visible surface, like the ripples seen when a stone falls into a pond.
One such event was judged to be 40 000 times more energetic than the San
Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Huge solar tornadoes. SOHO discovered tornadoes as wide as Africa, with hot
gas spiralling outwards from the polar regions of the Sun. Typical wind
speeds of 50 000 kilometres per hour can become ten times faster in gusts.

The alien breeze. A wind of gas from the stars blows through the Solar
System, and the solar wind fights it. SOHO has fixed its direction (from the
Ophiuchus constellation) and its speed (21 km/s) more accurately.

Some facts and figures about SOHO

With scientists from 62 institutes in 15 countries, in the teams that
provide and operate the instruments, and with industries in 15 countries
contributing to the spacecraft's construction, SOHO is a masterpiece of
international collaboration.

Weighing 1.85 tonnes at launch, the European-built SOHO was dispatched by a
NASA rocket on 2 December 1995, and transferred to the vicinity of Lagrange
Point No. 1, where it now hovers, 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth.

The spacecraft was commissioned in April 1996 for a nominal operational life
of two years, but this was later extended by five years until the end of
March 2003.

Observations were severely interrupted twice, between 25 June and 5 November
1998, and between 21 December 1998 and 2 February 1999. The first event was
due to loss of contact and control, and the second to gyroscope failure. In
both cases ESA and NASA engineers, fully supported by SOHO's constructor
Matra Marconi, worked wonders to restore the spacecraft to full operations.

More than 30 eruptions called solar proton events have bombarded SOHO with
energetic particles. The most severe, on 14 July and 9 November 2000,
temporarily blinded SOHO's instruments with particle 'snow' and slightly
impaired the efficiency of the spacecraft's power-generating solar panels.

More than 3600 coronal mass ejections from the Sun have been observed by
SOHO's LASCO instrument, making an average of two per day during SOHO's 5
years of observations.

SOHO is by far the most prolific discoverer of new comets in the entire
history of astronomy. By mid-April 2001 the number stood at 304, most of
them being small comets that fall into the Sun. Amateur astronomers around
the world examine SOHO's daily pictures, via the Internet, and have been
first to spot more than 200 of the SOHO comets.

The scientific payoff from SOHO is apparent in more than 2000 papers, theses
and reports, to which more than 1400 individual researchers have

For more information please contact:

ESA - Communication Department
Media Relations Office
Tel: +33(0)
Fax: +33(0)

Dr. Bernhard Fleck, ESA - SOHO Project Scientist
ESA Space Science Dept, c/o NASA- GSFC, Greenbelt (Maryland,USA)
Tel: +1 301 286 4098
Fax: +1 301 286 0264

Dr. Paal Brekke, ESA - SOHO Deputy Project Scientist
ESA Space Science Dept, c/o NASA- GSFC, Greenbelt (Maryland,USA)
Tel: +1 301 286 6983
Fax: +1 301 286 0264



From Hermann Burchard <>

Dear Benny,

apropos Professor Andrew Glikson remark on CCNet April 24 referring to the
"P/Tr controversy", I wanted to mention that he has been extremely helpful
in answering my e-mail questions and sending me his papers concerning this
matter, the issue being whether a cometary or other cosmic impact is
responsible for this major break in the geological record. As stated in
several recent articles and letters posted by you on CCNet, the P/Tr
boundary strata are strange and different to geologists from, e.g., the K/T
boundary strata because of the absence in the P/Tr gap of
standard types of geological deposits associated with impact craters and
their ejecta. As Andrew Glikson rightly emphasizes, large and ancient
craters are still perfectly recognizable as cosmic impact sites by such
ejecta and by typical features such as crushed rocks characterised by shock
metamorphism, etc, near, in, and under craters.

So, what is the reason for the absence of, what are the difficulties in
locating such impact indicators if indeed there was an impact in the West
Sibirian Plane including the South Kara Sea (WSP)? According to an article
which Dallas Abbott kindly sent me [with Nikishin, Ziegler et al,
from which several facts below are drawn], there is more basalt in the WSP,
> 1.2 M km^3 (if the Taymyr is included), than in the entire Sibirian Basalt
Plateau (SBP), = .7 M km^3. The SBP begins just east of Norilsk with the
Putorana mountains, and tapers off toward Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk.
Thus, the 1600 km feature of the WSP is a gigantic lava bed, similar to
Lunar Maria, in fact a terrestrial mare, where several fault/rift basins
seem to indicate multiple impacts of cometary fragments. The notion of
terrestrial maria was put forth by Alt, Sears, and Hyndman of
the University of Montana (1988). Are there some features other than a vast
lava lake to indicate impact? (More data on how basalts within the WSP are
distributed spatially would help here).

It is most peculiar that the city of Perm, situated on the west side of the
Urals, gave rise to the name "Permian." The entire western slope is Permian
or older sedimentary rock, there are no volcanics here. The eastern slope of
the Urals, totally different from the western, is mainly
basalt dykes injected into sedimentary strata. Eclogites, ultra high
pressure minerals making up an entire facies in the Northern Urals, with
water, CO2 and nitrogen inclusions, are typically formed at about 10 km
depth when and where a slab of oceanic crust loaded with water is subducted.
How did the eclogite facies get from a depth of 10 km to where it is now, at
altitude?  Why the East-West asymmetry?

This geological make-up of the Ural mountain chain, eclogites not at depth
but raised high, and especially the remarkable asymmetry:

    Western slopes = Permian sedimentary rocks, no basalts,
    Eastern slopes = basalt sheets/dykes interbedded in sediments,

is exactly as expected for a deep asthenonsphere/mantle boundary explosion
of one or more cometary pieces >80 km on the east side of the mountains,
which is precisely where we find a giant terrestrial mare, the WSP. The
impact may have occurred at or near oceanic crust, as the
eclogites, lifted from 10 km below sea-level to mountain heights by the
impact, indicate a continental margin (the existence of which had been long
established by geology), which is important because the asthenosphere in
such spots is at moderate depth of perhaps only 50 or 70 km, to where a 30km
comet fragment could penetrate.

The curved outline of the Urals is fine, but not important in this argument
(a maths word -- what do geologists say?). It draws attention to the area,
and makes it appear more like a mare on the map. Is Novaya Semelya from the
same period, or later? It could be the wall for the South Kara Sea impact
feature -- I hesitate to write "crater", as this is not like continental
impact structures we have come to know and understand.

So, here are some of the missing pieces with impact in basalt of subducting
oceanic crust, there would be no shocked quartz grains, and other deposits
expected by the classical continental cratering studies [Dietz, Shoemaker,
Glikson]. Sometimes drilling into craters exhibits impact breccia. This may
not be possible in the WSP, where drilling to 7 km found no basement
underneath the basalts (a similar situation seems to exist at Chicxulub,
where according to a recent news item in the Dallas Morning Post a pluton
has risen tens of km, from Michael Paine's web pages
-- however impact breccia has been found above the pluton, here there was no
magmatic outpouring, and no mare was formed).

There are several fault/rift basins in the WSP. This suggests a possible
multiple impact. The putative comet, an unstable pile of ice and rock, is
expected to fragment at a mere tug of gravity in Earth's vicinity.

Another impact apparently has hit in Southern China in the Emeishan FBP,
where I continue to hold that flood basalts are unlikely to be caused by a
doubtful instability deep in the core/mantle boundary. The FBP there is
islolated from, yet roughly simultaneous with, the Sibirian traps. This may
have been the same comet and the same day, as the comet approaching Earth
began to break up over the Permian Pacific, about a few minutes or more
likely a few hours earlier than the Sibirian impacts, depending on the exact
manner of fracture of the comet.

One or more even earlier impact(s) west of China in the Permian Pacific seem
very likely if the above facts are true. One might say, ocean impacts are
implied by, or at least could explain, the peculiar nature or strange
absence of ejecta, which up until now, according to the standard geological
tests, did seem to throw grave suspicion on any impact theories, as follows:

The water plume from a Pacific impact East of China ejected into suborbital
trajectories would have come back down at about the same time as the
Emeishan and Sibirian impacts. This could result in explosions from those
later impacts being doused and ejecta washed away by water pouring down from
the earlier impact(s). Furthermore, the geometry indicates a path of the
cometary fragments that nearly grazed the eastern hemisphere, coming in at a
shallow angle in the Western Pacific and lower still toward arctic regions
(present-day crustal coordinates!), as additional fragments may have
overshot the Earth near the (present-day) North Pole.

This low angle of attack explains a forward crater wall (Ural mountains)
being thrown up, as the comet (fragment) buried under the crust, not
exploding until deep under relatively undisturbed crust (up until that very
moment), probably penetrating the asthenosphere.

Many other predictions can be made from an impact hypothesis along these
lines for tests by geological evidence that is yet to be found. The antipode
of the mantle spot where the main impactor hit (Hawaii) is at the Columbia
Seamount, Ilhas Oceanicas da Trindade y Arquipelago Martin Vaz off the East
coast of Brazil, for all of those antipode fanciers.

The size crater that the West Sibirian Basin might be (but apparently there
are several "holes" dug by fragments) would require an 80 km to 100 km comet
minimum, perhaps several pieces >25 km.  According to Duncan Steel there are
dozens (hundreds ?) of comets >100 km in unstable orbits just beyond Neptune
and further on in the Kuiper belt, waiting to be injected into the inner
solar system upon passage near other bodies such as Neptune or Pluto.

The hotspot formed by impacts in Western Sibiria, left a plume that moved
East pouring out basalts first in the massive Sibirian traps of the
Putorana, then tapering off in Far East Sibiria, then on to Hawaii along the
Emperor-Hawaii Seamount chain. Or rather the crust moved West over the
mantle, and the mantle spot under Hawaii is where the comet hit.

Thus the Eastern end of the SBP is in spatial proximity with the Emperor
Seamount Chain, or its NW terminus, the Meiji Seamount. Drilling by the DSDP
there found no useful basalts, a huge sedimentary apron covers it deeply.
Still it can be shown to be about 85 Ma, from DSDP cores drilled out of the
top of the 2nd oldest mount, the Detroit Seamount, which gave 81 Ma.

Many of the above facts are from explanations which Andrew Glikson sent me,
and I hope that this exposition now makes better sense to him than earlier
versions which he so very generously corrected.

Best regards,
Hermann Burchard


From Andrei Ol'khovatov <>

Dear All,

In yesterday's CCNet (26 April 2001), a recent fireball event in Jordan was
described. All data I have read so far about the event suggests that it was
a geophysical event similar to the Dec.4, 2000 Salisbury event, which was
discussed on CCNet in December 2000. There is still no official name for
such a type of event, but I prefer to call them (including reports for
several conferences) as "geophysical meteors", or "geometeors". The
existence of some probably non-meteoroidal meteor-like phenomena was
suspected for a long time (see W. Corliss' books on geophysical anomalies,
for example), but little attention was paid to them, and they were
practically forgotten or ignored.

A physical mechanism of them is not known, but probably it is associated
with some electromagnetic phenomena. Anyway, a geophysical meteor often
resembles a very large and energetic high-speed ball-lightning. There are
some relationships of a geophysical meteor with geological and meteorological
factors. We just begin to investigate this mysterious and exciting phenomenon,
and apparently many new interesting discoveries are waiting for us. For
example, it is very important to investigate the samples taken in the Jordan
event impact site. Maybe some CCNet readers could help with this?

You can read more on geophysical meteors in:

Andrei Ol'khovatov
Russia, Moscow


From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny

Last night saw the final episode of the long-running and informative science
program Quantum on Australian television. In January the government
(under) funded Australian ABC disbanded its Science Unit and now we have seen
the demise of Quantum. So much for the delusion that Australia is a "clever
country"! There is a rally at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday to protest
the ABC funding cuts. Anyway, the episode highlighted science developments
over the twenty or so years of Quantum broadcasts. To my surprise and
delight the program led with the threat to Earth from asteroids and comets.
It featured interviews with Don Yeomans and Gene Shoemaker.

Michael Paine


From Konrad Ebisch <>

    By Carmen Kinniburgh and Janet Wong

"The plate tectonics theory, proposed in the 1960s, suggests Earth's
crust is split up into a few immense plates that constantly shift and
produce earthquakes, but it does not explain how this movement is linked
to processes occurring deep inside the planet, says Forte."

1960's? Try Alfred Wegener, 1915, The Origin of Continents and Oceans or
even Abraham Ortelius 1596.

Konrad Ebisch

The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <>.
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found at
DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the
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"The acid test of all this is the last 22 years of satellite
measurements made of the lower layer of air of the Earth. That layer of air
should be warming quite rapidly. It's where the carbon dioxide
greenhouse effect should be taking place. That layer there has not seen
a big warming trend. It's seen ups and downs but there's been no net trend.
That layer of air has to warm first according to the models. Then it, in
turn, warms the surface. Now we've seen a little bit of warming of the
surface, but it can't be caused by that carbon dioxide effect in that
atmospheric layer, which has no warming. You can't bypass the lower
layer of air and warm the surface by carbon dioxide effect. So the satellite
measurements, which are precise and validated by independent balloons
everyday, say that there has been no effect that we can see and,
therefore, the future effect is going to be minimal.
--Sallie Baliunas, Harvard Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics, 26 April 2001

"Chapter 11 on "Sea Level Changes" of IPCC's 1999 TAR paper was
written by 33 persons; none of whom represents actual sea level
research. I have now finished a 7 pages review report. It is a most
shocking reading; lots of modeler wishes but very little hard facts based on
real observational data by true sea level specialists. I allow myself a few
"It seems that the authors involved in this chapter were chosen not
because of their deep knowledge in the subject, but rather because they
should say what the climate model had predicted. This chapter has a low
and unacceptable standard. It should be completely rewritten by a
totally new group of authors chosen among the group of true sea level
--Nils-Axel Mörner, President of the INQUA Commission on
"Sea Level Changes   and Coastal Evolution"

    BBC News Online, 26 April 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    TechoCentralStation, 23 April 2001

    MSNBC, 26 April 2001

    Science Online, 27 April 2001

    New York Post, 24 April 2001

    Nils-Axel Mörner <>

    Jonathan Shanklin <>

    Duncan Steel <]

     Andrew Glikson <>

     Max Wallis <>

     Reason Online, 25 April 2001


From the BBC News Online, 26 April 2001

Scientists have analysed climate data for the 20th century

By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

UK scientists say a thousand years' climate records show the last three
decades were the millennium's warmest.

They also conclude that natural phenomena like El Nino are unlikely to have
caused the unprecedented recent warming.

Their findings strengthen the argument that climate change is not produced
by natural causes alone.

The scientists are Professor Phil Jones, Dr Tim Osborn, and Dr Keith Briffa,
all from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. They
report their work in the journal Science.

Their analysis included instrumental and documentary records, and also other
"proxies" of past climate variability - evidence from tree rings, corals and
ice cores.

Warmest century

For the northern hemisphere, their temperature reconstructions show that
"the recent 30-year period is likely to have been the warmest (about 0.2
degrees Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average) of the millennium, with the
warmest century (by about 0.1 degrees C) likely to have been the 20th".

Greece has been hit by forest fires in recent years
The authors say the first half of the millennium was milder than the 1500 to
1900 period. The coolest century was the 17th., followed by the 19th., with
a milder interval between.

They add that their work provides some support for the idea that there were
two epochs in the last millennium, the medieval warm period, spanning
roughly 900 to 1200, and the little ice age from about 1550 to 1900.

The authors say: "The southern hemisphere temperature reconstructions are
shorter and less reliable; they do indicate cooler conditions before 1900,
but not the same inter-centennial variation evident in the north.

"The average shows greater recent warming than earlier in the 20th century,
and there is no evidence of the slight 1945 to 1975 cooling seen over many
northern hemisphere land areas.

"Instrumental data from Antarctica show a temperature rise until the early
1970s, with little change since then."

Greatest warming

Professor Jones said: "The accuracy of records for the first half of the
millennium is sometimes queried. We have calculated errors, and the picture
is clearer. All records show that the 20th century experienced the greatest
warming of the millennium.

"Examining this broad span of records from all parts of the world, we see
that the North Atlantic Oscillation, which is responsible for the UK's
recent milder, wetter winters, has behaved in this unusual way before,
notably in the 1730s, the mid-19th century, and the early 1900s.

"Similarly, we find elevated activity of El Nino events in some earlier
periods. Some people have attributed global warming to these two phenomena.
But the records show that their past activity did not result in significant

No freeze

The scientists say it is important to recognise the dangers of taking
documentary sources at face value.

They say accounts of the Thames freezing over in the past are often cited as
proof that winters were colder then. But they say a significant factor in
the freezing of the river was the way the old London Bridge was built with a
number of piers, encouraging a process known as "ponding". In the winter of
1962/63, the third coldest since 1659, the river did not freeze at all.

There has been no complete freezing since the bridge was rebuilt to a
different pattern between 1825 and 1835.

Professor Jones told BBC News Online: "Our work is part of the jigsaw,
narrowing down the range of possible past climates. It shows that it is more
likely that the underlying trend in global warming is the result of human

Copyright 2001, BBC


From Andrew Yee <>

University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

FROM: Vince Stricherz, 206-543-2580,


Most-serious greenhouse gas is increasing, international study finds

Scientists know that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as
carbon dioxide have risen sharply in recent years, but a study released
today in Paris reports a surprising and dramatic increase in the most
important greenhouse gas -- water vapor -- during the last half-century.

The buildup of other greenhouse gases (those usually linked with climate
change) is directly attributable to human activity, and the study indicates
the water vapor increase also can be traced in part to human influences,
such as the buildup of atmospheric methane. However, other causes not
directly related to humans must also be at work, said Philip Mote, a
University of Washington research scientist who is one of seven lead authors
on the report.

"Half the increase in the stratosphere can be traced to human-induced
increases in methane, which turns into water vapor at high altitudes, but
the other half is a mystery," said Mote. "Part of the increase must have
occurred as a result of changes in the tropical tropopause, a region about
10 miles above the equator, that acts as a valve that allows air into the

Readings of water vapor increases 3 to 10 miles up are more ambiguous, Mote
said. The international study, produced by 68 scientists in seven countries
as part of the World Climate Research Programme, examined only the changes
at higher altitudes, 3 to 30 miles above sea level.

Although carbon dioxide has been relatively easy to monitor and increases
have been observed since the 1950s, water vapor has proven much more
difficult to monitor. The new effort for the first time was able to draw
conclusions about the behavior of water vapor based on a large number of
measurements during a long period of time. The report covered both the upper
troposphere (3 to 10 miles high), where trends are harder to detect, and the
stratosphere (10 to 30 miles high).

"A wetter and colder stratosphere means more polar stratospheric clouds,
which contribute to the seasonal appearance of the ozone hole," said James
Holton, UW atmospheric sciences chairman and expert on stratospheric water
vapor. "These trends, if they continue, would extend the period when we have
to be concerned about rapid ozone depletion."

Atmospheric heating happens when the Earth's atmosphere and surface absorb
solar radiation, while cooling occurs when thermal infrared radiation
escapes the atmosphere and goes into space. If certain key gases that absorb
and emit infrared radiation, the most important being water vapor and carbon
dioxide, were not present in the atmosphere, Earth's temperature would cool
to minus 19 degrees celsius, or minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit. The global
annual mean temperature is 14 degrees celsius.

Key findings of the water vapor assessment are:

* Ground-based, balloon, aircraft and satellite measurements show a global
stratospheric water vapor increase of as much as 2 parts per million by
volume in the last 45 years, a 75 percent jump.

* Modelling studies by the University of Reading in England show that since
1980 the stratospheric water vapor increase has produced a surface
temperature rise about half of that attributable to increased carbon dioxide

* Methane, which has been increasing in the atmosphere since the 1950s,
could be contributing to the water vapor increase. Chemical conversion of
methane to water vapor occurs in the stratosphere but can only account for
at most half of the water vapor increase.

A satellite record of relative humidity data for the upper troposphere shows
a 2 percent increase during the last 20 years in the equatorial region.
However, the uncertainty in this determination is too large to allow a clear
conclusion as to whether this is part of a long-term trend.

Among other things, the report recommends continuing to launch balloons
monthly from Boulder, Colo., as a means to measure water vapor, a low-cost
effort that nevertheless faces possible discontinuation. The balloon
measurements, dating from 1981, are the only continuous record of water

Holton said the report is significant because, by careful comparison, it
largely has resolved contradictions in measurements among a number of


For more information, contact Mote at (206) 616-5346 or, or Holton at (206) 543-401


From TechoCentralStation, 23 April 2001

Debate on the causes of predicted global warming usually revolves around
climate models scientists construct. But can those models account for all
the variables the universe has to offer? Not really, according to Dr. Sallie
Baliunas of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who puts forth
the sun as a variable not to forget.

"The science altogether is unsettled, but we know for sure that the models
that make the predictions into the future are exaggerating the warmth," Dr.
Sallie Baliunas tells TechCentralStation Host James Glassman.

Baliunas points out that increases in magnetism at the center of our solar
system correlate quite strongly with temperature rises here on Earth. She
also notes the difficulty of this scientific enterprise saying, "There are
something like 5 million parameters that have to go into a good climate
model, and it has to compute for a time longer than the age of the universe
if we wanted to know something."

She and Glassman recently talked in Boston about the science, the
uncertainty, and the sun's perhaps overlooked influence on climate change.

James K. Glassman: Dr. Baliunas, we've heard that temperatures have
increased on Earth over the last century. Now, is our assumption essentially
that they had been stable before that?

Sallie Baliunas: The temperature of the Earth has increased over the last
100 years. We have instruments - thermometers -- at the center of the Earth
that tell us that. The warming began early in the 20th century, late in the
19th century. But before that, there was a very long, protracted cooling
that began in the 14th century that continued to the mid 19th century -- a
500-year relative cold spell called the ice age. Before that, 800 or 1,000
years ago -- the early part of the millennium -- the temperature was even
higher than today, worldwide.

Glassman: So you're saying there was global warming before the 20th and 21st

Baliunas: Yes.

Glassman: Well, they didn't have SUVs then?

Baliunas: No.

Glassman: Why was the Earth heating up?

Baliunas: Well, the one property of climate is change. The temperature of
the Earth has changed dramatically in some cases. And it's changed
relatively greatly in the last 1,000 years even.

Glassman: How can you tell?

Baliunas: The thermometers go back only about 100 years or so over some
substantial portion of the Earth. Then we have to rely on other records,
things that help us reconstruct the climate. For example, growth of tree
rings is retarded during cold times usually and then is more advanced during
warm times. So by boring into tree rings scientists can tell where there are
milder periods or cooler periods. And then there are many indicators.
Glaciers advance and retreat, mountain glaciers, polar glaciers. Coral
growth rings tell us about the temperature of the ocean. There are many such
indicators that go back 100 years.

Glassman: So if there was global warming way back, way before the 20th
century, and it wasn't the result of spewing gasses into the air, that is to
say man-made global warming, then what caused it?

Baliunas: That's the big question. We need to answer the question: What are
all the causes of climate change, natural climate change, that is non
man-made? Look back in time, before the time when most of the carbon dioxide
had been put in the air, you still see natural changes of a degree or so
over decades or centuries, which is on the order of what the 20th century's
warming has been.

Now to answer your question, we've been looking at changes in the sun's
energy output and we can measure changes in the sun's energy output going
back 10,000 years by looking at tree rings, interestingly enough. And when
we do that, we see the ups and downs of the climate of the last 1,000 years
and even of the 20th Century match very well with the changes of

Glassman: In other words, what you're saying is that because of activity on
the surface of the sun, the Earth is warming up?

Baliunas: Right. When the sun's magnetism is strong, the sun's energy output
is higher and the Earth is warmer. We see that as a fact. We measured that
carefully over the last 20 years with satellites from the Earth, and we
measured it indirectly going back 400 years, 1,000 years, and 10,000 years.

Glassman: So in effect there are times when the sun is warmer than at other

Baliunas: Yes, and that warmth means the climate of the Earth warms up.

Glassman: Now, have you actually correlated the activity of the sun with
this magnetism that you're talking about, with the rise of temperatures on

Baliunas: Yes, the correlation is very strong. For the temperature records
going back on Earth, we can reconstruct the northern hemisphere about 250
years or so. And the ups and downs of temperature match almost exactly the
up and downs and change in magnetism, and so, the energy output of the sun.
As the sun is warming and cooling, the Earth's temperature is responding.
And it doesn't take much of a change of the sun either -- only about a few
tenths of a percent of its energy output to cause these temperature swings.

Glassman: So, for example in the 1300s was there a period of global warming,
climate change with temperatures rising? Was there solar activity then?

Baliunas: With records going back 1,000 years of solar magnetism, and the
warm period certainly was in effect from about the years 1000 to 1200, maybe
1300 was about the edge of it, then there started to be a cooling. That 200-
or 300-year period, the sun was much more active, magnetically, and we
think, therefore, much brighter energetically than it is today. And then the
magnetism declined into a long period of very low magnetism, lower energy
output, and in step with these major changes in the Earth's climate over the
last thousand years.

Glassman: Has there been solar activity over the last hundred years that
would correlate with the temperature on Earth?

Baliunas: Yes, it correlates almost exactly with the temperature on Earth.
The sun is as magnetically active as it's been in our direct telescope
records of the sun since the days of Galileo. So the magnetism of the sun
has been rising gradually, and it was especially sharp early in the 20th
century, coincident with this rise in temperature on the Earth.

Glassman: Now there were declining temperatures from the 1940s through the
mid-70s. Was there a lack of magnetism?

Baliunas: Yes, from about the 1930s, the 1940s the sun's magnetism waned a
little bit and has since picked up a little bit.

Glassman: What you're saying is that solar activity is causing global

Baliunas: We are looking to find all the causes of natural change of the
climate of the Earth, the sun being one of them. That way we can subtract
out the natural changes and look for the human signal. We see, essentially,
no signal of human activity.

Most of the changes that we see line up with the changes in the sun. Now
there's some uncertainty, so there may be a human signal. But if there is,
it's quite tiny.

Glassman: What do your colleagues think of this idea?

Baliunas: It's very interesting. Many of the climate models now try to
incorporate the effect of the sun on them. Our next stumbling block is what
exactly is the mechanism for change on the sun, and how does the Earth
respond to that?

We think first of changes in the total energy output of the sun, but that's
not the only way the sun changes. Different wavelengths of light are
changing, and there are also high energy particles coming out of the sun,
changing in step with these changes. Some scientists have thought that those
particles, for example, produce changes in cloud cover on Earth and change
the temperature. We have to understand that before we can make a good
estimate of what the sun's impact is. Right now everyone is struggling with
the causes.

Glassman: Your colleagues, fellow astrophysicists, don't say, "Oh, this is
some sort of silly idea"?

Baliunas: No, astronomers know the sun is a variable star.

Glassman: But, apparently, a lot of journalists or a lot of people who
politicize this issue don't understand that?

Baliunas: They don't understand it, yeah. But it'll take time for their

Glassman: Let me ask you about ice at the North Pole. According to the
global warming theory, it should be melting rapidly. But you say that ice
isn't cooperating with that theory?

Baliunas: No, neither ice nor temperature is cooperating with the model of
predictions. You're so right that the models, the computer output, says that
the North Pole should be warming dramatically and rapidly. It hasn't been.
It's really been cooling. Ice packs have been growing. There's just been no
evidence that the Poles have been warmer. And to go look at, say, cracks in
the ice or the caving of an iceberg and then to work backwards from that and
say that has a human cause, that's just bad logic.

Glassman: I have read articles in the New York Times and elsewhere about the
observation of some icebreakers saying, "Wow, there's doesn't seem to be as
much ice up here." You're saying that that's not a very good way to look at

Baliunas: No, those observations have been overturned. There's just been a
paper published about sea ice thickness in the North Pole and temperatures.
If the issue is temperature, looking at the ice is a proxy for temperature.
Ice can change for reasons other than temperature. It can change because
precipitation's changed. Some of the models, in fact, say that sea ice
should be growing as you warm a little bit because it's so cold at the North
Pole that you warm a little bit and get more precipitation.

Glassman: As a scientist, how do you react to journalistic coverage of this

Baliunas: I try to read it all because people want to know the answer. But
there's a sociology to journalism that I don't subscribe to, and so I'm not
a journalist. That sociology is that scary stuff sells newspapers.

Glassman: And you're a scientist, so you want to find out what's really
going on?

Baliunas: Scientists have to go by the facts.

Glassman: How much warming have we actually seen in the last 100 years?

Baliunas: There's been about a half a degree centigrade or a degree
Fahrenheit warmer. Most of that warming occurred early in the century,
before the greenhouse gasses by human activities were added to the

Glassman: And is this the first time we've ever seen warming on this planet?

Baliunas: Oh no. (laughs) No. There have been times -- the warming in the
late 19th century, especially in the high polar regions -- that can't be
caused by the human-induced gasses. That was much stronger than any warming
we've seen in recent decades. Now with ice core records -- fellows who drill
in the high latitudes and polar regions and pull up a hundred thousand, two
hundred thousand years of ice core layers that tell you the temperature -
there's some warmings and coolings there over decades that are astonishing:
several degrees. Not man-made.

Glassman: And when you say every decade, you're talking about thousands of
years ago or hundreds of years ago?

Baliunas: Well, some of these episodes during the little ice age, for
example, were just several hundred years ago.

Glassman: If there is an increase in temperature, and as you say it has been
a half a degree over the past century, people are worried that maybe that is
the beginning of a big acceleration of temperature. Do you think the science
is settled at this point about whether we'll have any more global warming?

Baliunas: I think the science is settled that the predictions are
exaggerated. There is maybe some human-made warming, but it's going to be so
small that it's going to be lost in the natural variability. And that's the
conclusion from science.

The acid test of all this is the last 22 years of satellite measurements
made of the lower layer of air of the Earth. That layer of air should be
warming quite rapidly. It's where the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect
should be taking place. That layer there has not seen a big warming trend.
It's seen ups and downs but there's been no net trend. That layer of air has
to warm first according to the models. Then it, in turn, warms the surface.
Now we've seen a little bit of warming of the surface, but it can't be
caused by that carbon dioxide effect in that atmospheric layer, which has no
warming. You can't bypass the lower layer of air and warm the surface by
carbon dioxide effect. So the satellite measurements, which are precise and
validated by independent balloons everyday, say that there has been no
effect that we can see and, therefore, the future effect is going to be

Glassman: As far as the causes of this one-half degree increase are
concerned, do scientists in your field, really the climate scientists, have
a settled conclusion as to why that's occurred?

Baliunas: No. I think right now everyone's looking at the sun as one reason,
but there are issues of the ocean, ocean circulation, ocean changes on time
scales of decades to centuries. And we don't understand that. We don't
understand the mechanism for the sun. There's still many surprises left.

Glassman: Would you say, in general, that at this point the science is

Baliunas: The science altogether is unsettled, but we know for sure that the
models that make the predictions into the future are exaggerating the

Glassman: If we could somehow find a way to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere
without slowing our economy, which is a big if, are we certain that that
would actually help us in terms of reducing global warming?

Baliunas: That's an interesting question. There certainly is a technology
that is easy and affordable, it's just not politically palatable. And that
is nuclear power. Nuclear power produces no carbon dioxide. We know how to
build nuclear power plants, it just seems to me culturally and politically
unforeseeable in the future. So, that would do it without wrecking the
economy while still having growth in energy use.

The other question is much more important. If you put all these resources
into mitigating a problem, what other problems are you taking those
resources from? Since we can't see a human-made carbon dioxide signal where
there should be one, it means that the carbon dioxide effect from human
activities must be quite small.

Glassman: Let's say everyone stopped emitting any greenhouse gas. All human
greenhouse gasses were just halted. Do you think that it's still possible to
have global warming?

Baliunas: Yes. If the causes of global warming are not owing to human
activities, then the climate will continue on its course of change. It may
be solar, it may be related to the oceans, it may be internal to the Earth's
climate. So the fact that we stop emitting carbon dioxide will do nothing to
change the course of the climate. There's one interesting related issue,
which is carbon dioxide in the air in recent decades has produced a
tremendous agricultural boom. There have been estimates of at least a 10
percent efficiency increase. So plants have been growing quicker, better,
greener. Crops have been growing better. This has been for free,
essentially. So cutting carbon dioxide means we lose that increase in
efficiency that we've gained.

Glassman: But back in 1100, 1200 we saw a rise in the temperature of the
Earth, even though, I guess we can assume there weren't a lot of greenhouse
gasses being emitted by people in the Middle Ages.

Baliunas: That's right, absolutely. In the 10th, 11th century, it looks to
me like the sun's energy output rose and that's really what caused the
warming back then. If you're a student of history, you'll know that was a
great time of expansion in Europe: town building, city building, university
building, church building, trade, because the climate was really benign.

Glassman: How long do you think it will be until we'll actually be able to
say, in a conclusive way, what has caused the warming that's occurred in the
last century?

Baliunas: That's a very hard question and I really, I really don't know.
Every few years everyone says that another 10 years of research and we'll
know. But we've been saying that for 10 or 20 years now.

Glassman: Has anyone brought forth any evidence that says, "Dr. Baliunas
says there's a correlation between magnetic activity of the sun and the rise
of temperature on Earth, but this, that and the other disproves that"?

Baliunas: I don't see how you can't disprove the correlation. The next step
is for us to find the mechanism for that correlation. The correlation is
only the starting point. It may be that it's a coincidence that these two
things have changed together.

Glassman: But that would be quite a coincidence?

Baliunas: It seems odd because we have some mechanisms that look like they
might explain it. We now have to prove that.

Glassman: I've read a lot about how humans are going to be causing a
dramatic warming. A recent summary of a UN report forecast possible floods
and extreme weather and outbreaks of malaria -- incredible predictions.

Baliunas: They're not credible, as the scientific report states. To get an
estimate of what climate is going to be by region is not possible region by
region. And you can't look at those outcomes like floods and storms. Models
have no ability to sees storm fronts, for example. So they can't predict
that. It even brings up the point about how credible the average
temperatures are, globally -- those that are often quoted. Global averages
are made out of region-by-region averages, which are admittedly incorrect --
wrong in some cases by 11 degrees centigrade over portions of the United
States. Rainfall is wrong by 200 percent in some areas. So averaging out all
of those mistakes can't possibly give you anything reliable, even in the
global average.

Glassman: We know how difficult it is to predict the weather for tomorrow;
so, how are we going to predict the climate 100 years from now?

Baliunas: That's exactly the problem. Predicting the weather is done on a
very small scale. We have to try to do that globally, but we can't do that
because the computer power isn't available. We also don't have the knowledge
of what changes in the climate. So we have to make some assumptions and
guesses. There are something like 5 million parameters that have to go into
a good climate model, and it has to compute for a time longer than the age
of the universe if we wanted to know something. So we can't. We have to make
simplified assumptions. We know those assumptions are wrong. We know the
outcome doesn't match up with reality.

Glassman: Frequently we hear the press and politicians jump on an issue that
relates to science and blow it all out of proportion. The recent Y2K crisis
was a good example. But I think we've seen something else related to
climate. About 25 years ago, weren't people talking about something else
happening in the climate?

Baliunas: Yeah, well, weather and climate are important issues for humans.
At about the 1940s, the temperature reached a maximum and then began to
decline. And by the 1970s, it looked like it might be a crisis. So there
were scientists saying that the ice age was coming, in part aggravated by
soot and smokestack emissions that were also being looked at around that

Glassman: So these smokestack emissions were supposedly blocking the sun? Is
that right?

Baliunas: Right. The smokestack emissions, the soot causes a shading effect
of sunlight. So it was thought that they may be producing that 1970s
cooling. This probably isn't so. Nonetheless, there was a huge cry that,
perhaps, the next major glaciation was occurring -- which really would be

Glassman: Whatever happened to those people who were talking about global

Baliunas: Oh, they then looked at their models, added carbon dioxide's
effect and then began to talk about global warming.

Glassman: So they went from global cooling to global warming in a very short
period of time?

Baliunas: Many of them did, yes.

Glassman: Looking back at the global cooling scare, I guess it's good we
didn't try to fix that one?

Baliunas: No, I don't know how you... we could not have fixed that problem.
And I'm not sure we can fix the carbon dioxide problem, whose evidence can't
be seen.

Glassman: Now, isn't it also true that some leaders of the global warming
movement were also highly active with the global cooling movement?

Baliunas: I guess for some people you just can't lose.

TechCentralStation © 2001


From MSNBC, 26 April 2001

Researcher traces the historical effects of long-term shifts    
By Becky Ham
WASHINGTON, April 26 -  Timing couldn't have been worse for the group of
colonists who came ashore on Roanoke Island in 1587, attempting to establish
the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Along with the
usual hardships of starting a new society on the edge of the wilderness, the
colonists were confronted with the region's worst drought in 700 years,
which caused mass starvation and aggravated tense relations with Native
Americans. By 1590, the ill-fated settlers had vanished with little trace.
Roanoke's collapse in the face of harsh climate puts it in distinguished
company, a researcher reports in the journal Science.    
RECENT CONCERNS about global climate change, especially the impact of human
activity on these changes, have sent scientists scrambling to discover how
current climate trends fit into the larger picture of climate change
throughout Earth's history. With a growing pile of paleoclimate data at
their disposal, researchers are also taking a closer look at how complex
societies responded to past climate change.

Understanding how these cultures adapted to events like persistent droughts
could provide valuable perspective on how modern societies might respond to
future climate change, says Peter deMenocal, a researcher at the
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Modern climate data, recorded by instrument, allow us to study climate
phenomena that vary on a time scale of several years, such as El Niño,
deMenocal notes in Friday's issue of Science. But that record is far too
short to capture large-scale events like the drought that wiped out Roanoke
- events that we can confirm through other detailed climate records like
tree rings or lake sediments.
These climate proxies, among others, indicate that the past 12,000 years of
Earth's climate have been a bumpy ride, punctuated by widespread cooling
events and droughts that persisted for decades and often centuries. These
events are associated with changes in ocean circulation, solar radiation and
volcanism. Many of them occur on thousand-year cycles, indicating that solar
variability and interactions between the ocean and atmosphere are especially
important factors influencing these climate changes.

A growing store of detailed and well-dated paleoclimate records has
contributed to "a transformation in the field that allows scientists to
evaluate cultural records within the context of climate," deMenocal says.
Researchers are using this new perspective to examine how past societies
managed to cope - or failed to cope - with prolonged and severe climate
events, events without equal in modern times.

This new outlook suggests, for instance, that the Akkadian Empire in
Mesopotamia may have been one of the earliest complex societies felled by
severe drought. The Akkadian Empire was established around 2300 B.C.,
linking rain-fed agricultural fields in northern Mesopotamia with irrigation
agriculture in the south. The empire stretched from the present-day Persian
Gulf into Turkey before it abruptly collapsed less than 200 years later.

By 2170 B.C., archaeological records document a mass exodus from the north,
with settlements abandoned and refugees pouring into southern Mesopotamia.
Excavations at one of these settlements, Tell Leilan, show that the collapse
is marked by a thick layer of windblown dust without any artifacts. Three
hundred years later, smaller and more nomadic groups finally ventured north
An excavated sample of residential occupation within the lower town of Tell
Leilan in northeast Syria during the final days of the Akkadian Empire.
Researchers found the same telltale signature of drought in a deep-sea
sediment core drilled from the Gulf of Oman. The core documents a dramatic
300-year period of windblown dust that could be dated to roughly the same
period as the Akkadian collapse. Chemical traces in the dust allowed the
scientists to pinpoint its origins in Mesopotamia.

The severe climate change that may have helped topple the Akkadians probably
had its roots in the far-off North Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic deep-sea cores
suggest that the start of the Mesopotamian drought coincides with widespread
cooling in the northern part of the ocean, which could have affected
rainfall that typically fed Mesopotamia's rivers. Modern records show that
water supply for Mesopotamia can be cut in half when North Atlantic sea
surface temperatures are unusually cool, deMenocal notes.  

Several thousand years later, on the other side of the world, the Tiwanaku
culture in South America faced a similar climate challenge. Between 300 B.C.
and A.D. 1100, the Tiwanaku built an urban complex that probably supported
nearly half a million people. They sustained this dense settlement through
raised field agriculture, a technique that improved drainage and recycled
nutrients in the poor tropical soil.

The raised fields of the Tiwanaku may be a good example of a complex society
already responding to the challenges of a marginal environment, and
therefore vulnerable to sudden climate change, says deMenocal. Around the
year 1100, the cities and fields were abruptly abandoned.
Once again, the paleoclimate record may contain clues to the Tiwanaku

The Quelccaya ice core, drilled just 125 miles from Lake Titicaca, contains
an annual record of precipitation for the region. This ice core record shows
close overlap between the time of the Tiwanaku abandonment and the start of
an increasingly dry spell. Sediment cores from Lake Titicaca itself also
chronicle the event, showing a 33-foot drop in the lake level at the time.
The drought persisted for several centuries, during which the Tiwanaku went
into a slow decline.
Solar input

The sun's energy, after traveling 93 million miles to get to Earth, hits the
upper atmosphere at about the intensity of three 100-watt bulbs per square
yard. A third is reflected back into space, two thirds warms the planet and
drives its weather engine.

The atmosphere

Earth gets its livable temperature (on average 59 degrees Fahrenheit) thanks
to a delicate balance of gases that create a "greenhouse" effect by trapping
heat inside the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases -- water vapor, carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrous oxide, and others -- absorb heat energy, then re-radiate a
portion of it back to the surface.

The oceans

Covering two thirds of the planet, oceans are the key source of moisture in
the air and they store heat efficiently, transporting it thousands of miles.
The oceans and marine life also consume huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

The water cycle

Higher air temperatures can increase water evaporation and melting of ice.
And while water vapor is the most potent greenhouse gas, clouds also affect
evaporation, creating a cooling effect.


They both cool Earth by reflecting solar energy and warm Earth by trapping
heat being radiated up from the surface.

Ice and snow

The whiteness of ice and snow reflects heat out, cooling the planet. When
ice melts into the sea, that drives heat from the ocean. Northern Hemisphere
snow cover has declined 10 percent in two decades, but no significant
melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has been detected.

Land surface

Mountain ranges can block clouds, creating 'dry' shadows downwind. Sloping
land allows more water runoff, leaving the land and air drier. A tropical
forest will soak up carbon dioxide, but once cleared for cattle ranching,
the same land becomes a source of methane, a greenhouse gas.

Human influences

Humans might be magnifying warming by adding to the greenhouse gases
naturally present in the atmosphere. Fuel use is the chief cause of rising
carbon dioxide levels. On the other hand, humans create temporary, localized
cooling effects through the use of aerosols, such as smoke and sulfates from
industry, which reflect sunlight away from Earth.

The fate of the Akkadians and the Tiwanaku begs the question: If a
centuries-long drought descended today, how would we respond?

One of the most destructive droughts in recent memory is the 1930s American
Dust Bowl, which lasted only six years. In this short time, it managed to
become "one of the most devastating and well-documented agricultural,
economic and social disasters in the history of the United States,"
according to deMenocal.

Researchers need to gather more data on past climates before this
information can be used to accurately predict and design strategies for
future large and persistent climate changes, says deMenocal, but
acknowledging the historic impact of these severe events is an important
step toward that goal.

"Right now, we address climate change on the basis of a painfully short
climate record, just the past 150 years or so that instruments have
recorded," deMenocal says. "We now have to relearn history on a long-term
© 2000 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

From Science Online, 27 April 2001

Originally published in Science Express as 10.1126/science.1059188 on April
12, 2001
Science, Vol. 292, Issue 5517, 667-673, April 27, 2001

Cultural Responses to Climate Change During the Late Holocene
Peter B. deMenocal

Modern complex societies exhibit marked resilience to interannual-to-
decadal droughts, but cultural responses to multidecadal-to-multicentury
droughts can only be addressed by integrating detailed archaeological and
paleoclimatic records. Four case studies drawn from New and Old World
civilizations document societal responses to prolonged drought, including
population dislocations, urban abandonment, and state collapse. Further
study of past cultural adaptations to persistent climate change may provide
valuable perspective on possible responses of modern societies to future
climate change.

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY
10964, USA. E-mail:

In the spring of 1785, the geologist James Hutton presented a lecture to the
Royal Society of Edinburgh that changed scientific inquiry into natural
processes. The essence of his view was simple enough: The present is the key
to understanding the past. Hutton recognized that slow geologic processes
such as erosion or uplift could produce sedimentary strata or mountain
ranges. In 1795, he wrote that "we find no vestige of a beginning--no
prospect of an end. ... Not only are no powers to be employed that are not
natural to the globe, no actions to be admitted of except those of which we
know the principle and no extraordinary events to be alleged in order to
explain a common experience ..." (1). This view was not accepted by most
natural scientists at the time because it required full acceptance of the
expanse of geologic time and rejection of the prevalent views of a young
Earth. Future generations of scientists, however, most notably Charles
Darwin half a century later, were encouraged by this new way of thinking to
interpret their observations on the basis of what they knew of modern

To understand how and why climates change, we have to invoke a corollary to
Hutton's view: The past must be used to understand the present. Modern
instrumental records are sufficiently long to document climate phenomena
that vary at interannual time scales, such as El Niño, but they are too
short to resolve multidecadal- to century-scale climate variability that we
know to exist from detailed tree-ring, coral, and lake sediment records
spanning the past 500 to 1000 years (2, 3). Similarly, the socioeconomic
impacts of recent El Niño/La Niña events are well documented (4), but little
is known about the societal impacts of longer period climatic excursions.
Without knowing the full range of climatic variability at time scales of a
few decades to a few millennia, it is difficult to place our understanding
of modern climate variability, and its socioeconomic impacts, within the
context of how Earth climate actually behaves, both naturally and as a
result of anthropogenic increases of greenhouse gasses (3).

Historic and Prehistoric Drought in North America

Excellent examples of the value of past climate records can be gleaned from
the history of drought in the United States. Water availability, rather than
temperature, is the key climatic determinant for life in semiarid expanses
across the planet. Drought often conjures up images of the Dust Bowl drought
of the 1930s, which lasted ~6 years (1933-38) and resulted in one of the
most devastating and well-documented agricultural, economic, and social
disasters in the history of the United States. The drought was triggered by
a large and widespread reduction in rainfall across the American West,
particularly across the northern Great Plains (5). It displaced millions of
people, cost over $1 billion (in 1930s U.S. dollars) in federal support, and
contributed to a nascent economic collapse. Subsequent analysis of the Dust
Bowl drought has revealed that its tremendous socioeconomic impact was, in
part, due to wanton agricultural practices and overcapitalization just
before the drought, when rainfall had been more abundant (5). A subsequent
decadal-scale drought in the 1950s (Fig. 1, A and B) was also severe but
less widespread, mainly impacting the American Southwest, where improved
land use practices and disaster relief programs mitigated its effects.

How did the 1930s and 1950s droughts compare with other historic and
prehistoric droughts? In a comprehensive analysis of hundreds of tree-ring
chronologies from across the United States, Cook and others established a
network of summer drought reconstructions extending back to 1200 A.D. (6, 7)
(Fig. 1A). This reconstruction documents much more persistent droughts
before the 1600s (7). These so-called "megadroughts" were extremely intense,
persisted over many decades, and recurred across the American Southwest
roughly once or twice every 500 years (Fig. 1, A through D). Reconstructed
conditions during the largest of these multidecadal droughts far surpassed
those during droughts recorded within the past ~150 years (the period for
which extensive instrumental data are available). Evidence for these and
other megadroughts has been found in detailed lake sediment records (8),
with additional evidence for even longer, century-scale droughts in
California before 1350 and 1110 A.D. (9).

The most severe drought in the southwestern United States within the past
800 years spanned an ~22-year period between 1572 and 1593 A.D. (7) (Fig.
1C). The reconstructed spatial drought pattern at the peak of this dry
period in 1583 A.D. shows extreme drought conditions extending across the
American Southwest (Fig. 1C). Dry conditions apparently extended eastward
and persisted into the early 1600s as far east as coastal Virginia (10). On
the basis of a 700-year tree-ring chronology from northeastern Virginia,
Stahle et al. conclude that the intervals spanning 1587 to 1589 A.D. and
1606 to 1612 A.D. were the driest periods in the past 700 years (10). In
August of 1587 A.D., the first English colonists arrived and settled in
Roanoke, Virginia. This small group of settlers became known subsequently as
the Lost Colony, because the entire Roanoke settlement had vanished by the
time the English resupply ships returned 4 years later. Originally
attributed to poor planning and inadequate supplies, the failure of the
Roanoke settlement is now understood within the context of this severe
drought, which began, to their monumental bad luck, just when the settlers
arrived (10). A larger colonial settlement was established subsequently in
Jamestown, Virginia, in April of 1607 A.D., and the settlers also suffered
greatly. Within 25 years, over 80% of the population died, mainly of
malnutrition (10).

Although appreciably less severe than the drought of the 1580s, the 26-year
"Great Drought" of the 1280s (11) was similarly prolonged and widespread
(Fig. 1D). By the time of this drought, the Anasazi, ancestors of modern
Pueblo Indians, had long established elegant stone and adobe villages in the
semiarid highlands and canyons of the American Southwest. Archaeological
investigations of Anasazi settlements have documented that many sites were
abandoned abruptly near the end of the 13th century A.D. Cited reasons for
the collapse of the Anasazi include emergent balkanization, warfare, and
religious turmoil within the region, as well as the onset of severe drought
conditions and regional deforestation (11, 12). Whether the multidecadal
drought of the 1280s was the determining factor in the collapse of the
Anasazi continues to be debated (13, 14), but current archaeological
evidence firmly implicates drought as a contributing destabilizing factor
(12, 14).

Modes and Mechanisms of Holocene Climate Variability

The relatively recent droughts described above persisted from a few years to
a few decades. Complex societies can, and do, adapt readily to
interannual-to-decadal fluctuations in water availability, but more
persistent droughts present a different set of challenges and coping
strategies. Multidecadal- to multicentury-scale droughts are now known to
have punctuated the warm climate of the Holocene epoch [the past 11,700
calendar years before the present (calendar yr B.P.)]. Furthermore,
transitions into and out of these climate shifts can be very abrupt,
occurring in less than a decade (15). The Holocene was once thought to have
been climatically stable (16), but detailed and well-dated paleoclimate
records now show that Holocene climate was punctuated by several widespread
cooling events, which persisted for many centuries and recurred roughly
every 1500 ± 500 years (17-22) (Fig. 2).

Paleoceanographic data indicate that these events were associated with
changes in subpolar (19) and subtropical (21, 22) surface ocean circulation
(Fig. 2), as well as marked changes in terrestrial climates (17, 18, 23,
24). These events appear to have occurred synchronously across the North
Atlantic (21), with possible antiphase behavior in the northwest Atlantic
(25). Deep-sea sediment evidence for deep-ocean circulation changes
associated with these Holocene events is, at present, equivocal (19, 26),
although other supportive evidence has been presented (20, 27, 28). The
millennial-scale pacing of Holocene climate variability implicates
mechanisms with long time constants, such as thermohaline circulation or
ocean-atmosphere coupling (26, 29), which govern modern climate stability.

Analysis of the most recent millennial-scale Holocene climate cycle, the
Little Ice Age [circa (ca.) 1300 to 1870 A.D.] and the preceding Medieval
Warm Period (ca. 800 to 1300 A.D.), suggests that the primary factors
affecting global temperature variability over the past millennium were
variations in solar irradiance and volcanism, which together account for 40
to 60% of the reconstructed temperature variability (30). Climate models
require an additional forcing agent, the anthropogenic rise in greenhouse
gases, to account for 20th-century warmth (30, 31). Strong correlations of
solar irradiance variability (32, 33) with surface temperature (30, 31) and
regional drought (34, 35) over the past millennium implicate solar
variability as an important factor influencing global climate over
multidecadal-to-multicentury time scales. However, the role of solar
variability in forcing the full suite of millennial-scale climate variations
during the Holocene (and the last glacial) is complicated by the absence of
1500 ± 500 year variability in the atmospheric 14C record (36) and its
generally inconsistent match with Holocene climate anomalies (Fig. 2). The
14C record does exhibit substantial variance at periods near 2200 to 2500
years [the Hallstadzeit cycle (36)].

Cultural Responses to Late Holocene Climate Variations

How did past cultures respond to the longer, multicentury-scale climate
changes that punctuated late Holocene climate? Placing the archaeological
record of cultural change within the context of detailed and well-dated
Holocene paleoclimate records presents opportunities to examine how large,
complex societies responded to long-term, persistent changes in climate. At
some times during the late Holocene, whole empires collapsed and their
people were diminished to much lower subsistence levels, whereas in other
cases, populations migrated and adapted to new subsistence modes. In all
cases, the observed societal response reflects an interaction between human
cultural elements (socioeconomic, political, and secular stresses) and
persistent multicentury shifts in climate. Four case studies drawn from the
joint archaeological and paleoclimate histories of the New and Old World
illustrate past cultural responses to late Holocene climate change: the
collapse of the Akkadian (ca. 4200 calendar yr B.P.), Classic Maya (ca. 1200
calendar yr B.P.), Mochica (ca. 1500 calendar yr B.P.), and Tiwanaku (ca.
1000 calendar yr B.P.) empires.
Akkadian collapse (Mesopotamia, ca. 4200 calendar yr B.P.). Under the rule
of Sargon of Akkad, the first empire was established between ca. 4300 and
4200 calendar yr B.P. on the broad, flat alluvial plain between the Tigris
and Euphrates Rivers (37). Akkadian imperialization of the region linked the
productive but remote rain-fed agricultural lands of northern Mesopotamia
with the irrigation agriculture tracts of southern Mesopotamian cities.
After ~100 years of prosperity, however, the Akkadian empire collapsed
abruptly at ca. 4170 ± 150 calendar yr B.P. (37, 38). Archaeological
evidence documents widespread abandonment of the agricultural plains of
northern Mesopotamia (37) and dramatic influxes of refugees into southern
Mesopotamia, where populations swelled (37, 39) (Fig. 3). A 180-km-long
wall, the "Repeller of the Amorites," was built across central Mesopotamia
to stem nomadic incursions to the south. Resettlement of the northern plains
by smaller, sedentary populations occurred near 3900 calendar yr B.P., ~300
years after the collapse (37). The stratigraphic level representing the
collapse at Tell Leilan, northeast Syria, is overlain by a thick (~100 cm)
accumulation of wind-blown silts, which was devoid of artifacts (37),
suggesting a sudden shift to more arid conditions. Social collapse evidently
occurred despite archaeological evidence that the Akkadians had implemented
grain storage and water regulation technologies to buffer themselves against
the large interannual variations in rainfall that characterize this region

Using a deep-sea sediment core from the Gulf of Oman, Cullen et al. (40)
reconstructed a detailed record of Holocene variations in regional dust
export based on mineralogical and geochemical tracers of wind-borne
sediments from Mesopotamian sources (Fig. 4). Closely dated by a sequence of
calibrated radiocarbon dates, the Gulf of Oman core documents a dramatic
~300-year increase in eolian dolomite and carbonate, which commenced at 4025
± 125 calendar yr B.P. Isotopic (87Sr/86Sr) analyses demonstrate that the
increased eolian dust was derived from Mesopotamian sources (40) (Fig. 4).
Geochemical similarity of volcanic tephra shards found at Tell Leilan and in
the deep-sea sediment core provided further evidence that the Akkadian
collapse and climate change events were synchronous (40). Enhanced regional
aridity is also indicated by increased eolian quartz deposition in nearby
Lake Van at the headwaters of the Tigris River (41) and by paleoclimate
records from the Levant (42). The combined archaeological and paleoclimate
evidence strongly implicates abrupt climate change as a key factor leading
to the demise of this highly complex society.

The onset of sudden aridification in Mesopotamia near 4100 calendar yr B.P.
coincided with a widespread cooling in the North Atlantic (19, 21). During
this event, termed Holocene Event 3 (Fig. 2), Atlantic subpolar and
subtropical surface waters cooled by 1° to 2°C (19, 21). The headwaters of
the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are fed by elevation-induced capture of
winter Mediterranean rainfall. Analysis of the modern instrumental record
shows that large (50%) interannual reductions in Mesopotamian water supply
result when subpolar northwest Atlantic sea surface temperatures are
anomalously cool (43). The aridification of Mesopotamia near 4100 calendar
yr B.P. may thus have been related to the onset of cooler sea surface
temperatures in the North Atlantic.

Classic Maya collapse (Yucatán Peninsula, ca. 1200 calendar yr B.P.). The
Preclassic Maya culture occupied vast lowland and highland regions of
Mesoamerica from the second millennium B.C. to ca. 250 A.D. The onset of the
Early Classic period after 250 A.D. marks the rapid growth of a more
complex, stratified, and intellectually and artistically prolific empire.
The hallmark accomplishments of Early (250 to 550 A.D.) and especially Late
(550 to 850 A.D.) Classic Maya cultures include the development of trade
networks spanning Mesoamerica, expansive urban centers, the erection of
monumental stelae, and advances in astronomy and mathematics (44).

The Classic Maya empire collapsed at the peak of their cultural development
between ca. 750 and 900 A.D., as determined by the number of sites engaged
in monument construction across Mesoamerica at any given time (45) (Fig. 5).
Following the apex of monument construction in 721 A.D., signs of collapse
began to show between 750 and 790 A.D. Construction effectively ceased
throughout the region after 830 A.D., and in 909 A.D., the last monument in
southern Quintana Roo, Mexico, was inscribed with the Maya Long Count date
(44). Many reasons for the collapse have been cited, including
overpopulation, deforestation and soil erosion, social upheaval, warfare,
and disease, as well as natural phenomena, such as climate change (46, 47).
Deforestation, erosion, and dense human occupation are well-documented in
many regions before the collapse (46, 48, 49).

The first unambiguous evidence for the role of climate change in the
collapse of the Classic Maya (50) came from lake sediments, which documented
an abrupt shift to more arid conditions in the central Yucatán Peninsula
(Mexico) between 1300 to 1100 calendar yr B.P. (800 to 1000 A.D.) (Fig. 6).
Sediment composition and stable isotopic analyses of ostracode shells
preserved in sediment cores from the closed-basin Lakes Chichancanab (50)
and Punta Laguna (51) in the central Yucatán indicate that the region was
subjected to an ~200-year period of persistently arid and highly evaporative
conditions centered near 1200 calendar yr B.P. (900 A.D.) (Fig. 6).

The densely populated southern lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula were highly
reliant on surface water supplies for human and agricultural needs, and it
was these regions that were most acutely affected during the drought from
800 to 1000 A.D. Archaeological excavations estimate that lowland population
densities decreased from ~200 persons/km2 at the peak of the Late Classic
period to less than 100 persons/km2 by ca. 900 A.D.; by 1500 A.D., many
watersheds had been completely abandoned (48). An additional dry period
predating the collapse was noted at 580 A.D. in the higher resolution core
record from Lake Punta Laguna (51) (Fig. 6). This century-scale dry period
coincides with the Maya Hiatus at the Early/Late Classic Maya boundary, when
monument construction was briefly curtailed (from ca. 530 to 650 A.D.) (44,
45, 48).

Moche IV-V Transformation (coastal Peru, ca. 1500 calendar yr B.P.).
Pre-Columbian coastal and highland Peruvian civilizations offer exceptional
insight into past linkages between culture and climate change because they
sustained densely populated, complex, agrarian cultures in very challenging
environments. The Peruvian coast is extremely arid and requires a high
reliance on irrigation to support agriculture, yet these regions sustained
large populations for many centuries.

Known for their sophisticated metallurgy and monumental adobe brick
structures, the Mochica polity established urban centers and controlled the
entire northern Peruvian coastline south of the Sechura desert from ca. 300
to 500 A.D. (early Moche IV period) (52). One such locality, the capital
site of Moche, boasts the largest adobe structure in the New World, the
Huaca del Sol (52). This immense coastal site and the cities it served were
very abruptly abandoned near 600 A.D. Archaeological evidence shows that
main irrigation channels had been overrun by sand dunes at the time of
abandonment. The subsequent Moche V culture was reestablished farther
inland, near the confluence of highland rivers draining the Andean
foothills, where runoff was more dependable, between 600 and 750 A.D. The
Moche IV-V Transformation was unprecedented in scope, scale, and rapidity
for this region (52).

An annual resolution record of regional precipitation changes from the
Quelccaya ice core (Peru) firmly implicates climate change as a leading
factor underlying the Moche IV-V Transformation (52). Variations in oxygen
isotopes, accumulation rate, and insoluble particle concentration in this
ice core document large changes in regional climate spanning the past 1500
years, which can be used to place the cultural records within their
paleoclimatic contexts (52, 53). Comparison of the paleoclimatic and
cultural histories indicates that the Moche IV-V Transformation near 600
A.D. was immediately preceded by an ~30-year period of reduced regional
precipitation (lower ice accumulation between 563 and 594 A.D.) and
corresponded with an ~60-year interval of increased wind-borne particles in
the ice (Fig. 7).The loss of Moche IV coastal irrigation channels to
encroaching sand dunes and the population migration to the better watered
highland valleys are consistent responses to the enhanced regional aridity
indicated by the ice core (52). Paulsen (54) recognized several coastal to
highland population shifts throughout the first and second millennium A.D.
(Fig. 7), noting a general seesaw relation between the rise and fall of
coastal and highland agrarian cultures in both Peru and Ecuador. As
discussed by Thompson et al. (53), these ancient coastal to highland
population shifts closely corresponded with the largest ice accumulation
(precipitation) changes recorded in the Quelccaya ice core record (Fig. 7).
Of particular paleoclimatic interest is the evidently synchronous onset of
arid conditions in the tropics of both hemispheres (Peru and the Yucatán)
near 900 and 600 A.D. (51) (Figs. 6 and 7).

Tiwanaku collapse (Bolivian-Peruvian altiplano, ca. 1000 calendar yr B.P.).
The Tiwanaku culture thrived for nearly 1500 years (300 B.C. to 1100 A.D.)
in urban and rural agrarian settings surrounding Lake Titicaca in the
southern Bolivian-Peruvian altiplano (~4000-m elevation) (55, 56). Through
the ingenious use of raised field cultivation, which promotes efficient
nutrient recycling and uses irrigation canals to thermally buffer crops
against killing frosts, the Tiwanaku were able to sustain an urban complex
with an estimated population of nearly half a million people (55). The
massive urban center at Lake Titicaca served as the capital of an expanding
state society that eventually exploited regions extending to the Peruvian
coastal desert and foothills.

The densely settled Tiwanaku urban centers and raised fields were abandoned
abruptly near 1100 A.D. (55, 56). Full collapse of the Tiwanaku state
occurred over the 12th to 15th centuries. The Quelccaya ice core was drilled
just 200 km northwest of Lake Titicaca (53) and thus provides valuable
insight into the paleoclimatic contexts of the Tiwanaku abandonment and
collapse. Comparison of the Tiwanaku cultural changes with the Quelccaya
isotopic and ice accumulation records shows a close coincidence between the
abandonment and the onset of increasingly arid conditions (lower ice
accumulation rate) (Fig. 7). Conditions markedly drier than those of today
persisted for several centuries, commencing after 1040 A.D. (53). Sediment
cores from Lake Titicaca document an ~10-m drop in lake level at this time
(56). It has been proposed that the sudden onset and multicentury
persistence of more arid conditions would have dramatically impacted the
productivity of the raised field agriculture system and, consequently, its
ability to sustain swelling Tiwanaku urban and rural populations (53, 55,

Past Cultural Responses to Climate Change

What can be learned from these ancient cultural responses to prolonged
drought? The climatic perturbations associated with these late Holocene
societal dislocations were extreme in their duration and intensity, far
surpassing droughts recorded during the modern instrumental period. As shown
in Fig. 1A, interannual droughts occur many times within a given generation,
and decadal droughts recur infrequently across many generations.
Multidecadal to multicentury scale droughts are much rarer but are
nonetheless integral components of natural climate variability. Well-dated
and detailed paleoclimate records from climatically sensitive locations bear
witness to the occurrence and severity of these multidecadal-to-multicentury
droughts (Figs. 2, 4, and 6).
For the examples discussed above, available paleoclimate and archaeological
data show that societal collapse and prolonged drought were coincident
within respective dating uncertainties. Coincidence alone cannot demonstrate
causality; indeed, each of these cultural collapses had been at one time
interpreted solely in terms of human factors unrelated to natural climate
variability, such as warfare, overpopulation, deforestation, and resource
depletion. However, joint interpretation of the paleoclimatic and
archaeological evidence now underscores the important role of persistent,
long-term drought in the collapse of the Akkadian (37, 39, 40), Maya (46-48,
50), Mochica (52, 53), and Tiwanaku (53, 55, 56) civilizations. These
examples show that, challenged by unprecedented environmental stresses,
cultures can shift to lower subsistence levels by reducing social
complexity, abandoning urban centers, and reorganizing systems of supply and
production (39).

Recalling James Hutton's uniformitarian premise, what makes these ancient
events so relevant to modern times is that they simultaneously document both
the resilience and vulnerability of large, complex civilizations to
environmental variability. Complex societies are neither powerless pawns nor
infinitely adaptive to climate variability. As with modern cultures, the
ancients adapted to and thrived in marginal environments with large
interannual climate variability. As with ancient cultures, modern
civilizations (regrettably) gauge their ability to adapt to future climate
variations on the basis of what is known from historical (oral or
instrumental) records. What differentiates these ancient cultures from our
own is that they alone have witnessed the onset and persistence of
unprecedented drought that continued for many decades to centuries. Efforts
to understand past cultural responses to large and persistent climate
changes may prove instructive for assessing modern societal preparedness for
a changing and uncertain future (57).


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Bar-Yosef, E. Cook, and two anonymous reviewers.

Include this information when citing this paper.
Volume 292, Number 5517, Issue of 27 Apr 2001, pp. 667-673.
Copyright © 2001 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science.


From New York Post, 24 April 2001

IT took a reader to remind Time magazine of the basic flaw in "Feeling the
Heat," its April 9 environmental manifesto on global warning - and to win an
important admission from the report's author.

The piece warned: "Except for nuclear war or a collision with an asteroid,
no force has more potential to damage our planet's web of life than global
warming. It's a 'serious' issue, the White House admits, but nonetheless
George W. Bush has decided to abandon the 1997 Kyoto treaty to combat
climate change . . ."

The point of that, and several companion pieces, was clear: Earth is in
imminent danger, thanks to pollution and other man-made sources, but the new
president is wearing blinders.

In case anyone missed the point, the magazine this week highlights a letter
that thanks Time for its report and adds: "I hope someone reads it to George
W. Bush."

But several readers disputed the magazine's basic argument. The lead graphic
on April 9, spread out over two pages, charted the "world of offenders" on
CO2 emissions, and another made suggestions on "How to Ward Off Disaster,"
yet Tom Peterson of Salt Lake City noted:

"Nature emits about 95 percent of greenhouse gases, while humans are
responsible for only 5 percent. Add a volcanic eruption here and there, and
nature probably accounts for as much as 99 percent. . . . With the rise of
our industrial might, temperatures haven't risen at all."

How did Time counter this assault on its basic premise, that humans are
destroying the environment? Associate Editor Michael Lemonick agreed that
"nature is responsible for most of the greenhouse gases on Earth."

However, Lemonick insisted, "even the small percentage that is man-made . .
. has been enough to start nudging temperatures upward." Which is not quite
what Time argued in the first place, which is that humans are the prime

Said Time then: There is "powerful" evidence to support "the case of
human-induced global warming" and it is no longer theoretical that "the
planet is warming up as a result of human activity."



From Nils-Axel Mörner <>

Dear Benny,

Yes, the IPCC Chapter 11 is a very inferior product (written by 33 persons,
in no way being specialist on the task). The real sea level specialists
would NEVER give these statements, figures and interpretations.

The remarkable thing is that they themselves arrived at 0.8 mm/yr rise in
the future, but refused to accept this figure and turned to theri modelling,
instead. So, their figure is purely a model output. We, sitting on the
empirical observation data do certainly dissagree. Also, their rates and
amplitudes of changes do not concur with known processes and geophysics of
the Earth.

In order not just to object, we launched a specific research project in the
Maldives. No doubt, sea level there has NOT gone up a singe mm in the last
150 years; instead it has fallen significantly in the last 20-30 years.

Please consult our INQUA webb-page: and our
institutionan webbpage: and my papers in "Integrated Coastal
Zone Management", 2000 (Spring & Autumn Editions).

With all the best wishes



MODERATOR'S NOTE: Professor Mörner is the President of the INQUA Commission
on "Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution", the international body
representing the scientific community of sea level researchers. It is
enlightening to read what he has to say about the dire prediction made by
the IPCC regarding catastrophic sea level rises (see

"Chapter 11 on "Sea Level Changes" of IPCC's 1999 TAR paper was
written by 33 persons; none of whom represents actual sea level
research. I have now finished a 7 pages review report. It is a most
shocking reading; lots of modeler wishes but very little hard facts based on
real observational data by true sea level specialists. I allow myself a few

"It seems that the authors involved in this chapter were chosen not
because of their deep knowledge in the subject, but rather because they
should say what the climate model had predicted".

"This chapter has a low and unacceptable standard. It should be
completely rewritten by a totally new group of authors chosen among
the group of true sea level specialists".

"My concluding proposition is: (1) Dismiss the entire group of
persons responsible for this chapter, (2) Form a new group based on real
sea level specialists (e.g. INQUA), and (3) Let this group work
independently of climate modeler".

IPCC and Sea Level Change

(as a part of IPCC WG1 Third Assessment Report, I was asked as
"Expert Reviewer" to comment on Chapter 11 "Changes in Sea Level". In my
previous review of December 15, I gave numerous comments and deep
criticism of the handling of the Sea Level problems and facts. It is
extremely frustrating to note that there are very little recognition of
these comments and still, they come from the President of the INQUA
Commission on "Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution", i.e. the
international body that hosts all the front scientists in Quaternary
sea level research and from where most of the observational records emerge.
Ignoring our group is to ignore observations ­ and put all trust in
modelling. This is a serious mistake that deserves nothing but discredit.
National sovereignty is a basic concept in international relations.
It must be respected. In science, we may speak about a "subject
sovereignty" and demand that the true specialists and representatives of a
subject also should be the first to answer questions about this
subject. Neglecting to do so is to violate scientific decency. In the
case of Chapter 11 (Changes in Sea Level), this is exactly what is
being done. The true sea level specialists are left outside, and the
chapter is instead written by persons representing quite other disciplines.
This is not acceptable. Only we, the representatives of the
international sea level community (with our INQUA commission in clear
leading position), are true producers of field observational facts. Why
do we see no single one from this community among the contributors to this
chapter? The situation is absurd. Modellers output data now appear in the
text as input data. This is nothing but falsification of scientific
observational facts."

Nils-Axel Mörner


From Jonathan Shanklin <>

If readers would like to judge for themselves on the recent change of sea
level in the Maldives, data from the the GLOSS network is available at
Click on the P option under GAN and MALE


Jonathan Shanklin
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, England


From Duncan Steel <]

Dear Benny,

The final item in CCNet today (April 26) contained this paragraph:

One litmus location has been the Maldives Islands in the centre of
the Indian Ocean, a coral group, which the IPCC says will drown under
rising seas within a few decades (IPCC TAR chapter 11).

This concept of coral islands being drowned by sea level rise has always
confused me. Surely coral grows at only certain depths, and so in broad
scope it simply keeps step with any rise in sea level? Of course the
situation for specific island formations will be more complicated than my
flippant rhetorical question, but clearly any  assumption that such islands
are entirely unchanging whilst the sea  swallows them up is invalid.

One might also like to muse on the irony that coral is largely made of
calcium carbonate, so that any rise in sea level stimulating coral growth
has the effect of locking up more carbon dioxide in a rocky form. In various
places, the US in particular, artificial reefs have been constructed by
dumping old tyres and car bodies in shallow water. Maybe we should be
shipping such waste to the tropical oceans, throwing it overboard in places
where the water is only slightly too deep for coral to thrive. Then the
garbage would provide new sites for coral islands to grow, at the same time
sucking up lots of carbon dioxide.

Oh, there is also a link between coral islands and asteroid impacts. After
he returned from his famous voyage on the Beagle in the 1830s, Charles
Darwin wrote a nice little book about coral atolls, describing how
near-circular coral reefs form around oceanic rock outcrops. Thus, looking
down from above, there is a central uplift with a circular rim surrounding
it. Late in the 1840s Charles Babbage suggested that this was the origin of
the craters on the Moon: coral atolls left high and dry after the lunar
"seas" (maria) lost their water.

Duncan Steel

Andrew Glikson <>

Dear Benny,
In your CCNet item of 25-04-01 you state "Equally intimidating are
accusations that CCNet has given the impression as if greenhouse warming is
a mere conspiracy theory (reminiscent of UFO
cover-up conspiracy theories) invented by sinister forces to frighten
innocent citizens. To the best of my knowledge, I cannot recall that I have
ever posted any conspiracy theories on CCNet."  (B. Peiser, 25-04-01).
This comment responds to my communication of the same date, where I stated:
"Before any CCNet reader obtains an impression as if greenhouse warming is a
mere conspiracy theory invented by sinister forces to frighten innocent
citizens, as alleged by some (CCNet 20-04-01), consider that: ...etc."
Note that my communication (25-04-01) refers to highlighted CCNet headlines
(20-04-01) which cite M. Phillips' (The Sunday Times, 15-04-01) statement:
"Every age has a governing creed from which dissenters are branded heretics
or enemies of the people. Once it was that God created the world. Next it
was that man had to recreate the world as the workers' paradise. When
communism imploded in the late 1980s another belief emerged to fill the gap
- that mankind was destroying the world through global warming. Anyone who
questions the orthodoxy that the West's rising output of carbon dioxide will
produce environmental catastrophe is branded as mad, bad or in the pay of
the oil industry. [...]  There is no conclusive evidence to support the
global warming theory., etc.".
Inherent in the above-cited statement is the insinuation as if the results
of climate research constitute some kind of ideologically motivated dogma,
casting doubt on the integrity and honesty of the scientists and scientific
organizations involved in climate research. The highlighting of such a
damaging allegation, which reflects on the reputation of numerous serious
researchers, in the headlines of CCNet, must be questioned - in the very
least, equal highlighting must be given to refutation of such
misrepresentation and to counter points of view.
Selective citation highlighting, title rewording and use of terms such as
"scare", "alarm" etc. (commonly used in connection with climate change, but
less so in connection with asteroid risks) can only result in an impression
of an ideological preference. Such methods, extensively used in the popular
and political press, have no place in "scholarly electronic networks".
Andrew Glikson


I accept your criticism that I select citations which I prefer, reword
titles according to my sense of humour and even brand unsubstantiated alarms
as a "scare". These are normal working practices of editors and moderators,
not just in the world of the political press but also in the scientific
media. You just need to look at the alarmist tone and often biased coverage
of the global warming issue in journals such as New Scientist, Science and

I can understand if you occasionally dislike my sceptical tone and bias or
the selection of a piece of information which I find particularly
enlightening. However, I always try to present *all* observational evidence
and sound arguments in the global warming debate. Please hit back at me if
you feel that I deliberately ignore or supress any relevant data or evidence
- but don't blame me for being critical of doomsday prophecies.

In the context of your complaint, it is evident that Melanie Phillips'
accusations had nothing to do with conspiracy theories, nor was it directed
at "the" results of climate research. Instead, she criticised those who have
hijacked climate research for political purposes while claiming that
"mankind [is] destroying the world through global warming." She also pointed
out that there is no scientific consensus regarding at least two vital
issues: i) that the current warming trend is mainly due to man-made
emissions of greenhouse gases, and ii) that this trend will lead to global

As the moderator of a very public network that focuses on *all* aspects of
neo-catastrophism and  which is read by thousands of people around the
world, I feel it is my responsiblity to strike a balance between realistic
and exaggerated risk perception and hazard assessment. I hope you will
understand that, for the time being, I remain a sceptic.

Benny J Peiser


From Max Wallis <>

I agree with Andrew Glikson in CCNet CLIMATE SCARES & CLIMATE CHANGE, 25
April 2001 that CCNet has given the "impression as if greenhouse warming is
a mere conspiracy theory (reminiscent of UFO cover-up conspiracy theories)
invented by sinister forces to frighten innocent citizens." I've told Benny
as much in the past with examples.

It takes little skill in linguistic analysis of Benny's answer, that "CCNet
is an open forum in which all sound arguments regarding the greenhouse
warming scare will get a fair hearing" to see various biases, especially in
use of the term SCARE. And in introducing Fred Singer as an "eminent
researcher and CCNet contributor" rather than longstanding critic of the

What of Benny's citing Singer's twelve "major scientific problems"?

Problem 7 is undoubtedly scientific:
"Severe storms and hurricanes have diminished in the past 50 years. A global
warming trend is calculated to reduce the latitudinal temperature gradient
and therefore the driving force for storms and severe weather."

Problem 11 is technically uncontrovertible (no problem!)
"mitigation techniques are available that can slow down the rise of
atmospheric GH gases and a possible climate change: energy conservation and
increased efficiency often make economic sense.." but drifts into the
socio-economic problem of why some mitigation techniques that are 'economic'
are not taken up.

Problem 9 is little more than a guess, showing the bias of a physical
" The spread of disease vectors, like malaria-carrying mosquitos, is likely
to be unimportant in comparison to human vectors."

Problem 12 seems to be a free-market modification of the Precautionary
Principle, so way beyond the normal definition of a scientifc problem:
"Policy measures should be applied with great caution and only when
justified by scientific data."

It's this confusion of legitimate scientific questioning of the
greenhouse-climate theory mixed up with overt or covert social, ethical and
political biases that justifies Glikson's analogy with UFO cover-up
conspiracy theories.  

Hold up your hands, Benny!

Max Wallis
Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology
67 Park Place                         tel. 029 2087 6426
Cardiff University CF10 3AS           fax  029 2087 6425


From Reason Online, 25 April 2001

Are we making progress? Ignore the gloomy intellectuals and look at the

By Ronald Bailey

In some intellectual circles, it is fashionable to dismiss the idea of
progress, the notion that social, political, and material conditions for the
mass of humanity are getting better. Langdon Winner, a professor at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently asserted at the International
Forum on Globalization's Teach-In on Technology and Globalization that "all
indices of performance are improving, but the world is not getting better."
He added that this "used to be called progress, which we don't hear much
about anymore."

New York University social critic and author of Technopoly: The Surrender of
Culture to Technology, Neil Postman once dismissively declared that "America
has developed a new religion, as it were, and the religion is its faith that
human progress and technological innovation are the same thing." The ranks
of progress skeptics include such notables as Jacques Ellul, Christopher
Lasch, Herbert Marcuse, Chellis Glendenning, Lewis Mumford, Jeremy Rifkin
and many others.

Despite the skepticism of these and other disaffected intellectuals, the
evidence supports the notion that there has indeed been a lot of progress,
by which I mean substantial improvement in the quality of and prospects for
human life. To be sure, we are not talking heaven on Earth. But relative
improvement? Absolutely.

Let's review the evidence. Probably the most concrete measure of progress is
the vast increase in human life expectancy over the past century.
Demographers believe that global life expectancy in 1900 was around 30
years. By 1950 it had increased to 48 years. Today, global life expectancy
is 66 years and is expected to rise to 73 years by 2025, according to the
World Health Organization. The really good news is that the difference in
life expectancy between the developed world and the less-developed regions
of the globe has narrowed dramatically from more than 25 years in the early
1950s to around 11 years today.

The burden of disease has also lifted considerably. The annual number of
deaths among people under age 50 fell from 21 million in 1955 to about 10
million in 1997. Deaths under 50 are expected to decline further, to 5
million, by 2025. This is an extraordinary improvement in human health since
world population in 1955 was 2.8 billion and is now over 6 billion.

For those worried about population growth, the average number of children a
woman has over the course of her lifetime has dropped from just under 6 in
1960 to 2.9 today. If current fertility trends continue, U.N. population
figures suggest that world population is likely to top out at a bit over 8
billion and begin to fall by the middle of this century. As important, women
(and men, too, in their own fashion) have more control over their fertility.

Widespread famines are thing of the past. Global food prices have dropped by
50 percent since 1960 largely because food production increased at faster
pace than population growth.

Between 1820 and 1992, the world's economies grew 40-fold. More recently,
world gross domestic product tripled from $9.5 trillion in 1970 to $29
trillion in 1998. Average wages in America tripled in real terms from $8 per
hour in 1949 to $24 per hour today. Without minimizing the hardships that
many Americans face, the good news is that poverty in this country isn't
what it used to be. Michael Cox, an economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve
Bank, points out that of those households officially below the poverty line,
97 percent have color TVs, and two-thirds live in air-conditioned dwellings
and have microwaves. Seventy-five percent own VCRs and own at least one car.
Forty-one percent own their own homes, and 50 percent own stereos and almost
all have refrigerators and cooking stoves. The poor in the U.S. today have a
higher standard of consumption than the average household did in 1971. (See
"Buying Time")

Humanity's inventiveness has exploded too. In 1790, when the U.S. Patent
Office opened its doors, it granted just 3 patents. By 1882, the Patent
Office had issued serial number 50,000 for its patent applications. Of
course, the 19th century was the century which saw the invention of the
steamboat, the railroad, the telegraph, the mass market newspaper,
nitroglycerin, the germ theory of disease, chemistry and the periodic table
of elements. In 1899, the year when patent serial number 700,000 was
assigned, the Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office famously recommended
that his office be abolished because "Everything that can be invented has
been invented." How wrong he was is illustrated simply by noting that at the
end of the year 2000, the patent serial number 9,471,932 had been assigned.

In 1900, the few thousand existing automobiles were the expensive toys of
the very rich. By 1950, there were 70 million vehicles. Today, there are
more than 500 million-one for every 6 people on the planet.

In 1975, the United States had 200,000 of the world's total of 300,000
computers. Today there are 160 million computers in use in America-51
percent of U.S. households have personal computers, up from 24 percent in
1994. Today, there are 557 million computers in use worldwide. In the past
40 years, global computing power has increased a billion-fold. A Ford Taurus
contains more computing power than the multi-million dollar main-frame
computers used in the Apollo space program.

Today, the 100 million mobile phones used by Americans are one-third of the
total 300 million mobile phones in use worldwide. By 2005, as many as 1.6
billion people will be cell phone subscribers.

The internet is used by 423 million people and that is expected to rise to
over 1 billion by 2005. Two years ago, former vice-president Al Gore told
the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting that
there were only 4 websites when he took office. Now Google searches
1,346,966,000 web pages.

Since 1970, 4,355 new drug applications have been filed with the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration. And at the dawn of the 21st century, scientists
have sequenced the human genome, and the genomes of many other important
species, opening up fantastic possibilities for further improving human
health and crop production.

Today, 92 percent of primary school age boys and 88 percent of girls are in
school worldwide. Even in the lowest-income countries, the comparable
figures are 89 percent for boys and 82 percent for girls.

Progress is not confined to the material and technological sphere. Liberty
too has increased. First, one should keep in mind that the centuries-old
evil of slavery was essentially abolished in the 19th century. The 20th
century saw a dramatic increase in democratic governance. According to
Freedom House, there were no nation-states that met its definition for being
fully democratic in 1900. "The states with restricted democratic practices,
not universal suffrage, were 25 in number and accounted for just 12.4
percent of the world's population. In 1900 monarchies and empires
predominated," notes Freedom House.

In 1950, there were 22 democracies, accounting for 31 percent of the world's
population, and an additional 21 states had restricted democratic practices,
accounting for 11.9 percent of the globe's population. Today, 120 of the
world's 192 countries are electoral democracies and constitute 62.5 percent
of the world's population. At the same time liberal democracies--that is,
countries which Freedom House regards as free and respectful of basic human
rights and the rule of law--are 85 in number and represent 38 percent of the
world's people.

MIT social critic Leo Marx once tendentiously asked, "Does Improved
Technology Mean Progress?" Let's just say that the evidence of history
strongly suggests that improved technology is a prerequisite for progress,
both material and social. Before modern technology, poverty, tyranny, and
ignorance were the lot of most people. Technology enables more and more
people to pursue the humanitarian goals of justice, freedom, and
self-fulfillment than ever before.

Ronald Bailey ( is REASON's science correspondent and the
editor of Earth Report 2000: Revisiting the True State of the Planet
Copyright 2001, Reason Online

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