Climate Profoundly Impacted Development Of Civilization…Cool Periods Brought On Plagues/Death

A Short History of the Human Race
Part 4/4. The Iron Age to the Present
Research by Ed Caryl

Climate historians usually recognize one Holocene Climate Optimum, from the end of the last ice age to about 4000 years ago. But as we have seen in this series of articles, there were three major warm periods, the first in the Upper Neolithic from 11,000 years BP to the 8.2 KY event, another from 8.2 KY to the 5.9 KY event, then the Bronze Age from 5.9 KY to 3.2 KY before present.

Each warm period resulted in a rise in sea level, the first melting most of the remaining ice from the ice age, the second finishing off the last ice in Canada and northern Europe. Each of these warm periods gave rise to a surge in population and technology. Each warm period advanced civilization. In the Bronze Age, empires arose in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Anatolia. At 3200 years ago, all this came to an end.

At 3200 years BP, cold dropped sea levels by over 2 meters. Populations went on the move in response to crop failures. The Egyptian, Hittite, and Mycenaean Greek empires collapsed. Piracy (the Sea People) reigned supreme in the Mediterranean. No one knows for sure who the Sea People were because their incursions did not result in their establishing another empire, they simply looted and destroyed most of the cities around the Mediterranean. This was the Greek Age of Heroes. The time Homer attempted to record in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The history of this period survives as myth. This was also the time of Moses as recorded in the first four books of the Bible.

Edpart4_1

Figure 1 (from upper to lower trace) is sea level, Greenland ice core, and Antarctic ice core temperatures, with the orange Alpine Recession time line at bottom. Some notable events are indicated on the Greenland temperature trace.

Trade was interrupted during this period, so tin imports for bronze were cut off. Bronze continued to be recycled, but the shortage encouraged the use of iron. This was the beginning of the Iron Age. The Iron Age should probably be called the steel age because pure iron is nearly as soft as bronze. Early blacksmiths learned quickly that working carbon into the iron made it much harder. Doing so results in steel, but making steel requires high temperatures making it more costly, so steel edges were welded to iron axes to produce an edge that would remain sharp with use while the whole tool remained less expensive. This is sometimes still done today.

Cool periods brought on plagues and death

The Greek Dark Age lasted for 300  years. Other areas recovered a bit more quickly, but Greece even lost their written language during this interval, only recovering it in the Greek Archaic Period. The Archaic Period began during a warm period seen in a 200-year period of Alpine Recession, sea level stabilization, and southern hemisphere warming. In this period, architecture, art and literature of all kinds flourished. Population increased. Greek colonies were established all around the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. All this came to a halt in another cool period.

In 430 BCE, the Plague of Athens struck. It has not been determined what pathogen caused this plague. Typhus, typhoid, the Ebola virus, Marburg, Small Pox, and Measles have all been suggested as possibilities. It killed a third to two-thirds of the population of Athens, including their general at the time, Pericles. It weakened the Greeks to the extent that the Macedonians, and then the Romans, dominated Greece until the middle ages. Population and trade growth at this time exacerbated the spread of disease across the then known world. If the Plague of Athens was caused by the Ebola or Marburg virus, import of animals from Africa, as well as overcrowding and poor sanitation, was the likely cause.

Temperatures and sea levels were rising after this time. Alexander the Great conquered most of the Middle East, but after he died, his generals couldn’t hold that territory. Rome began to flourish, and by 100 Common Era (CE), had conquered most of Europe and a large part of the Middle East. The glaciers in the Alps were in recession for 300 years, 150 years before, and 150 years after, the birth of Christ. Edpart4_2

Figure 2 is a map of the Roman Empire in the time of Emperor Trajan. (Wikipedia Commons)

A period of cooling then began in about the year 150 ACE. The Hatepe/Taupo Lake VEI 7 eruption took place in 186 CE. The dust and sulfates may have precipitated more cooling, and the effects were seen in Rome and China. Sea levels began to fall. Crops in northern Europe began to fail. Disease began to take a toll.

The Antonine Plague struck Rome in 165 CE, lasting for 15 years. It killed up to one million people and devastated the Roman army. A few years later, the Plague of Cyprian in 250 to 270 CE repeated this devastation. These plagues carried off several Roman Emperors and caused manpower shortages in agriculture and the Roman army. During this period, germanic tribes began moving south across Europe, putting pressure on Rome at a time when Rome could least resist.

As the temperature dropped from the high of the Roman Warm Period, conflict and migrations stirred Europe and the middle East. Plagues and warfare continued to impact populations. For example, the population of Rome went from one or two million at its hight in the 2nd Century to as low as 100,000 in the 6th Century. The Plague of Justinian struck the eastern Mediterranean in 541 CE. Over the next few years it killed perhaps 25% of the population. As many as 25 million people died over the next three centuries. More migrations took place. This population summary is taken from Wikipedia here. The population levels of Europe during the Middle Ages can be roughly categorized:[1]

•       280–400 (Late Antiquity): population decline.
•       400–1000 (Early Middle Ages): stable at a low level.
•       1000–1250 (High Middle Ages): population boom and expansion.
•       1250–1350 (Late Middle Ages): stable at a high level.
•       1350–1420 (Late Middle Ages): steep decline
•       1420–1470 (Late Middle Ages): stable at a low level.
•       1470–onward: slow expansion gaining momentum in the early 16th century.

Notice how this description follows the global temperature as seen in the sea level curve in Figure 1. During the Medieval Warm Period, 950 to 1250 CE, and the resulting population boom and expansion, the construction of large cathedrals began all across Europe. The Vikings expanded across the Atlantic to Iceland and Greenland, even briefly establishing a colony in Newfoundland. All this came to and end, again because of climate. Mt Rinjani in Indonesia, erupted in a VEI 7 event in 1257 CE. This event may have precipitated the Little Ice Age. There was a famine across Europe in 1315, caused by bad weather triggered by another volcano, Mount Tarawera in New Zealand. The Black Death struck in 1346, beginning in the Crimea. It is estimated that 30 to 60% of the European population died. The Spörer Solar Minimum from 1460 to 1550 contributed to low temperatures. Edpart4_3

Figure 3

The low-stand in global temperature in the Little Ice Age is reflected in the CO2 level as seen in the Antarctic Law Dome ice core data, Figure 3. This is because of lower sea surface temperatures. Low temperatures span the Maunder Minimum and end at the Dalton Minimum of the early 19th Century.

If the solar minimums of the 15th and 17th centuries contributed to the Little Ice Age, then the Modern Maximum must contribute to our current higher temperatures. As one can clearly see, high temperatures drive increasing populations, increasing crops, increasing innovation and technology.

Low temperatures drive famine, disease, social unrest, and declining populations. In the last 10,000 years, There were many times when the temperatures were higher than today. These were times when mankind expanded in many ways. We have had times of cold in the recent and far past. These were times when humanity declined.

We need not fear warmer temperatures. We do need to prepare for cooler temperatures, whether those arrive next winter, decade, century, or millennium.

 

47 responses to “Climate Profoundly Impacted Development Of Civilization…Cool Periods Brought On Plagues/Death”

  1. DirkH

    O/T Greenpeace loses 3.8 Million Euro in FOREX trade, speculating on weaker Euro.
    Euro got stronger though. Greenpeace fires responsible trader.
    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/unternehmen/greenpeace-verspekuliert-spender-millionen-mit-waehrungsgeschaeften-12990443.html
    Greenpeace collects 270 million Euro a year “mostly from donations” as the article says.

  2. Alfred Alexander

    Thank you Sir!

  3. Graeme No.3

    Ed Caryl,

    many thanks for your efforts and an absorbing series. One which I expect to re-read at times for its comments.

  4. Jonathan DuHamel

    Caryl’s series is a great summary of how natural forces affect civilization. I posted links to the articles on my blog, http://wryheat.wordpress.com/

    I end with one other caveat from Will Durant: “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”
    The post: http://wryheat.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/how-climate-has-affected-human-history/

    Jonathan DuHamel
    Tucson, Arizona

  5. yonason

    AN EVEN LONGER VIEW

    Not sure what to do with this tidbit, but thought it merited some attention. Perhaps Pierre can sort it out?

    After all, as Bob Carter explains about how long a period you choose to examine, “It depends”, because to a geologist even a few thousand years are but the blink of an eye.

    So perhaps models of any kind need to account for that?

  6. Frederick Colbourne

    For: yonason

    I tried to access this URL from Taipai but was blocked. Bu I got through another way.

    I was surprised not to find Discontinuity in Greek civilization by Rhys Carpenter.

    Or the work by R. A. Bryson, “Drought and the Decline of Mycenae,” Antiquity 47(1973) 46-50. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reid_Bryson

    His son also worked in this field.

    Hubert Lamb wrote about these subject for decades and was later disappointed that the members of the Climate Research Unit he founded at the University of East Anglia ignored his work during his own lifetime.

    1. yonason

      @Frederick Colbourne

      After a bit of a search, all I could find on Rhys Carpenter was a brief mention here, in which it states that…
      “Carpenter hypothesized that global warming was the cause of two ‘Dark Ages’:…”

      That’s odd, because everything I’ve seen about the Dark Ages says that they occurred during a period of cooling, and that it was the subsequent warming that saved them. The same for the Romans, who advanced during their warming period. Here’s an article saying as much (sorry, but that’s the best I can do on short notice, though it’s consistent with everything else I’ve ever come across, with the exception of Carpenter’s thesis).

      Did that article misrepresent Carpenter? If not, I don’t see any reason to take him seriously.

      I have heard of the Hubert Lamb story. What a disappointment that must have been, and still is for those who trust the dishonest CRU.

  7. yonason

    @Frederick Colbourne

    After a bit of a search, all I could find on Rhys Carpenter was a brief mention here, in which it states that…
    “Carpenter hypothesized that global warming was the cause of two ‘Dark Ages’:…”

    That’s odd, because everything I’ve seen about the Dark Ages says that they occurred during a period of cooling, and that it was the subsequent warming that saved them. The same for the Romans, who advanced during their warming period. Here’s an article saying as much (sorry, but that’s the best I can do on short notice, though it’s consistent with everything else I’ve ever come across, with the exception of Carpenter’s thesis).

    Did that article misrepresent Carpenter? If not, I don’t see any reason to take him seriously.

    I have heard of the Hubert Lamb story. What a disappointment that must have been to him, and still is for those who trust the dishonest CRU.

  8. Henning Nielsen

    I will warn against creating a picture where disasters need to be explained by a drop in temperature. It will simply be a mirror-image of the alarmist warming-scare. Newton and Michelangelo, Beethoven and Kant created their work in the LIA, how’s that supposed to be possible? The American and French revolutions, the struggle for human rights, heck, the whole Enlightenment period happenend in a time where temperatures were down a bit. This is a perilous path to follow.

    And, FYI, Pericles was the political leader in Athens, no dobut also a good general and a brilliant strategist (with his Fabian defensive strategy at home to enable comined operations against the Spartan allience), but at the time of the great plague his role was the political leader, and his loss was a very hard blow to the fractional democracy of Athens.

    1. mwhite

      The “industrial revolution” occured during the LIA.

      1. yonason

        @mwhite

        “The “industrial revolution” occured during the LIA.”

        That’s arguable, at least from this timeline and this sunspot data (which we know is correlated with temperature).

        From that first link we see that events leading up to it, and laying the groundwork for it, began in 1700. That was the beginning of the end of the Maunder Minimum, so it can’t be said to have occurred “during” the coldest portion of the LIA, but at it’s end as the world began to warm again.

        It does continue through the Dalton minimum, but that cooling is relatively short-lived, and as you can see from the second link the accepted date for the “Industrial Revolution” (at least according to their calculation) is given as 1850, smack in the middle of the warmest post Dalton period.

        There is another cooling after that, but the momentum at this point just keeps it going, and the overall warming continues. I’m guessing that maritime shipping could largely be credited with getting them through it, too, since they no longer would have had to rely on local food production, but could import it from warmer climes.

        There are doubtless many factors, lack of mountains of legal red tape as exists today probably among them, that may be credited with the success of the Industrial Revolution. But it did occur during an overall warming, not cooling, which I don’t think can be dismissed as irrelevant.

    2. Ed Caryl

      Henning, I didn’t say we go down without a fight! That apple tree Newton was sitting under was on the family farm where he had gone to avoid the plague raging in London and Cambridge. The great composers and writers of that time were motivated by what they saw around them instead of sinking into despair. Mozart died young (35) of an unknown fever. As I said in the articles, irrigation was developed out of the necessity brought on by the drought of the 8.2 KY event. The iron age sprang from the need to replace bronze that could not be made because of the lack of trade. The Industrial Revolution was enabled by the invention of steam power to pump out the coal mines needed for energy to combat the LIA. Revolutions are good for the winners and bad for the losers. The French Revolution had no winner. That was just a blood-bath.

      1. DirkH

        Except for Napoleon; first modern fascist mass murderer – ah, excuse me, I wanted to say, acclaimed architect of a united Europe.

        1. Henning Nielsen

          Ah…Napoleon a fascist? That’s a bit over the top, surely?

          1. DirkH

            He invented the gas chamber. (Haiti)

          2. Henning Nielsen

            So..a person who invents a gas chamber is a fascist.? Perhaps you should look up the definition first?

          3. DirkH

            Sorry if I’m critical of your fascist hero.

          4. Henning Nielsen

            Dirk, please, this is unworthy of a fine website like NTZ. You claim that I have a fascist as a hero, that statement lands you right in the middle of the name-calling alarmists. Hope you enjoy the company.

          5. DirkH

            Well. The fact that the French celebrate their Führer to this day while the Germans are ashamed of theirs to this day tells us something about propaganda. It’s a very interesting topic in my opinion; if you are too scared to ponder such questions, that is your problem, not mine.

          6. Henning Nielsen

            To your comment further down (doesn’t seem able to answer it):

            “Well. The fact that the French celebrate their Führer to this day while the Germans are ashamed of theirs to this day tells us something about propaganda. It’s a very interesting topic in my opinion; if you are too scared to ponder such questions, that is your problem, not mine.”

            It is very strange and surprising to see a German compare Napoleon to Hitler as equals in evil. Also, I believe you should pause to consider your mode of debating; to claim that another person has a fascist as hero is way out of line. Of course this only exist in your imagination, and I hope other readers take exception to such an outrageous statement.

          7. DirkH

            Henning Nielsen
            18. Juni 2014 at 20:12 | Permalink
            “It is very strange and surprising to see a German compare Napoleon to Hitler as equals in evil.”

            I have no problem comparing Hitler, Napoleon, Jingis Khan, Mao and Stalin. I could expand the list. Napoleon’s body count was 5 million; quite amazing for the time, given his simple weapons.

            ” Also, I believe you should pause to consider your mode of debating; to claim that another person has a fascist as hero is way out of line. Of course this only exist in your imagination, and I hope other readers take exception to such an outrageous statement.”

            So Napoleon is not your hero? In that case, accept my apology. You sounded like you wanted to defend him.

        2. yonason

          Fortunately for Russia, Napoleon invaded at the bottom of the Dalton Minimum.

          And, yeah, he was a pretty nasty peace of work.

      2. Henning Nielsen

        There are many strange claims in your comment. They seem rather far-fetched and I repeat; I warn against the trap of blaming all kinds of bad things on a slightly lowered temperature. We don’t want to copy the warmists, do we?

        The French revolution had no winner? I disagree. The Terror and subsequent dictatorship may be a no-winner situation, but the revoultion itself was a major step forward for liberty and equality.

        So, the Norsemen died out in Greenland becuase of a colder climate? How on earth are you so sure about that? This is just one of many statements that are rather doubtful, and I advise you to check them with a historian or two.

        And the invention of steam power too, was the result of this terrible freezing climate? Does this mean that without the cold weather, we would have missed out on this great industrial leap forward?

        1. DirkH

          “So, the Norsemen died out in Greenland becuase of a colder climate? How on earth are you so sure about that?”

          See Jared Diamond, “Collapse”.

          1. Henning Nielsen

            Cold weather was something the Norsemen were well used to coping with. What happened during this time? We know that contact with Norway was gradually weakened. The Norsemen on Greenland needed supplies of for instance iron to prevail over the Inuits. This lack of contact with their supporting culture is a far more likely reason for the disappearance of the Norse colonies on Greenland, than changes in the weather.

          2. DirkH

            Read Jared Diamond’s collapse.

          3. DirkH

            How did Norse graves slip under glaciers?

        2. yonason

          “As the warmer climate brought the Vikings in increasing numbers to Greenland and Iceland, the cooler climate was equal to the task of decreasing those numbers. By the time Columbus set sail in 1492, Greenland was “dead” and Iceland was struggling to survive its failing crops, starvation, and a collapsing fishing industry.”
          http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/lia/decline_of_vikings_iceland.html

  9. Henning Nielsen

    Sorry for being such a pain in the ass, but about the Athenian plague:

    “It weakened the Greeks to the extent that the Macedonians, and then the Romans, dominated Greece until the middle ages.”

    Please. I mean, please! Where are the standard works of history that claim the growing strength of Macedonia on the plague in 430?? (And by the way Ed, never ever say to a Greek that Alexander the Great was a Macedonian; they get very angry) It took quite some time you know, for the Macedonians to become a major power. Lots of things happened. For instance, it may well be that Athens had won the Pelopponisian war if they had not embarked on the disastrous attack on Syracuse. And the Syracusans were Greek, as were the Spartans and their allies… So it makes no sense to blame the weakening of Greek power on a single plague event in 430 BC.

    It is not wise to jump to conclusions, especially when there seems to be a tantalizing pattern for explaining all kinds of historical events from a single factor. Good historians don’t do that.

    1. Ed Caryl

      I’m not Edward Gibbon.

  10. Loodt Pretorius

    Ed, I do like your series of articles. Studying history without taking into account the various economical, climatic, and technological factors prevailing at the time is just plainly pointless.

    I often wondered whether the weather had an impact on the westward expansion of America. What stopped the earlier expansion? Lack of technology, can’t be, they had horses and carts, the lack of rifled barreled weapons; or bad weather in the eastern states?

    1. Henning Nielsen

      The American Civil War, perhaps?

    2. Ed Caryl

      Population pressure, or the lack of it. The colonizing of the US was driven by:
      The Ohio Valley – driven by crop failures in New England
      Irish police and fire departments in Ney York and Boston – the Potato Famine in Ireland.
      Upper Peninsula Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnisota – immigrants from Scandinavia driven by population pressure in their home countries.
      Texas – refugees from the civil war.
      Oklahoma – population pressure in the eastern states going in, climate in the 1930’s going out.
      The western states were populated by population pressure in the eastern states. (And poverty in Mexico.) People were seeking land, and the Homestead act enabled finding it.
      To find out were the people in the US came from, you need only to listen to the accents.

  11. DirkH

    While we have Henning Nielsen here: Henning, what was the motive behind Le Terreur? I get that egalité, liberté, fraternité thing; but why did the French revolutionaries kill each other by the thousands? I think it was a Freemason (Jesuit founded organisation) controlled power grab; what say you?

    1. Henning Nielsen

      Well Dirk what can I say? A conspiracy theory like that is something I just don’t go in for. But no doubt you can bolster it with some documentation.

      It is not uncommon for revolutions to flip over into terror-regimes. Extremes breed extremes, that’s one reason why revolutions, temptingly clear-cut solutions as they may seem, so often result in prolonged conflict and repression.

      I don’t regard the American revolution as a revoultion; rather as a revolt against a colonial regime. In the long run, the democratic process tends to be a more efficient way of reforming society, frustratingly slow and cumbersome as it may seem.

      I agree with Churchill in his famous quote about democracy being the worst form of government, except for all the others.

    2. Henning Nielsen

      I just don’t go in for that kind of conspiracy theory.

      1. DirkH

        So you say, killing each other is a perfectly normal thing to do for revolutionaries, and doesn’t need an explanation? Well, again you shy away from a very interesting question.

        1. Henning Nielsen

          What I say is this; “It is not uncommon for revolutions to flip over into terror-regimes.”

          And your question about freemasons is not “very interesting”, just utterly boring.

  12. Henning Nielsen

    Answer to Dirk’s comment (again, only “permalink” seems to be available, not the answer option):

    “Only when I dug deeper into the matter did it occur to me that the cathedrals must have been built during a time of great surplus production, and that there is a world of a difference in wealth -and weather- and agricultural production – between those highly productive times – during which there was also enough productivity to stem the tide of approaching Islam via the crusades – and the near-collapse only 300 years later.”

    Dear me -those poor benighted Italians just didn’t understand that they started their Renaissance at the wrong time, a time which should have reserved for disasters and Dark Ages. I guess someone should have hinted to Luther too that this was no time for religious renewal.

    The crusades did nothing to stem the spread of islam, in Europe the Christians were alredy on the offensive in Spain by 1095, and Byzantium was in a much stronger position than for a long time during the reign of Alexius. When the last stronghold of the Crusaders fell, it was not because of locusts, droughts or other Biblical / Alarmist events in Palestine, but simply because Europe had lost all interest in these weird colonists.

    1. DirkH

      You might have understood that climate science is not what the media and the scientists tell us; but with regards to history, you seem to be the 100% consensus guy. Because historians would NEVER do what climate scientists do all the time, right?

      Well. Historians look at treaties, documents and artefacts (all of which frequently come as forgeries as well). They don’t talk to geologists or other branches of science.

      You go with consensus history and ignore the influence of climate on the success of civilisations; as a climate uniformitarian, you’ll be wrong; I don’t care; i could only repeat myself.

      As to the crusafes, for your viewing pleasure.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_Qpy0mXg8Y&feature=colike

      Now go back to state media, they never lie.

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