Tag Archives: famine

Climate change caused havoc 2000 years ago

An Alaskan volcano once spurred climate change, darkening Mediterranean skies, launching a famine and possibly changing history.

LONDON, 1 July, 2020 – Once again, geologists have shown that climate change can be linked to some of the most dramatic moments in human history: civil strife in the Roman Republic that ended with the fall of a Greek dynasty in Egypt and the rise of the Roman Empire.

The summers just after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE (Before the Christian Era) were among the coldest in the northern hemisphere for thousands of years, and this sudden prolonged chill can be linked to lost harvests, famine, the failure of the all-important Nile flood and the death of the Roman Mark Antony and the last of Egypt’s Ptolemaic rulers, Cleopatra.

The trigger for that cold shadow over the Mediterranean theatre of history? Summer and autumn temperatures fell to as much as 7°C below normal because on the far side of the hemisphere an Alaskan volcano erupted in 43 BCE to hurl colossal quantities of soot and sulphates into the stratosphere and dim the sun’s radiation for much of the next decade.

And the evidence? Deposits of volcanic ash in the Arctic ice cores that can be linked directly to one once-smoking crater in the Aleutian islands now known as Okmok, according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Average temperatures fell dramatically. Summer rainfall in southern Europe rose by 50% to 120% above normal. Autumn rainfall rose fourfold.

“To find a volcano on the other side of the Earth contributed to the demise of the Egyptians and the rise of the Roman Empire is fascinating”

The rest is history: literally. Roman and Chinese chronicles surviving from that time record what scientists call “unusual atmospheric phenomena” as well as “widespread famine.”

Less directly, records of lead pollution preserved in the annual layers of ice in Greenland tell a story of economic decline, reflected in what might be the reduction of mining and smelting of lead and silver during the last years of the Roman Republic.

And the effect on the hemisphere’s climate was also recorded in the annual flow and flood of the River Nile, a regular inundation that enriched the grain harvest of the Nile Valley, and supplied bread for Rome and its sister cities.

The research was led by Joe McConnell of the US Desert Research Institute in Nevada. “To find a volcano on the other side of the Earth erupted and effectively contributed to the demise of the Romans and the Egyptians and the rise of the Roman Empire is fascinating,” he said. “It certainly shows how interconnected the world was even 2000 years ago.”

And one of his co-authors, Joseph Manning of Yale University, said: “We know that the Nile River did not flood in 43 BCE and 42 BCE – and now we know why. The volcanic eruption greatly affected the Nile watershed.”

Climate’s role

That mass migration, conflict and the collapse of once-stable regimes can be linked to climate change is not news: researchers have repeatedly found that drought, cold and harvest failure can be matched with the collapse of ancient empires in the Middle East and in the Bronze Age Mediterranean.

Just 1500 years ago volcanic eruptions have been timed to the famine, the Plague of Justinian, and other turmoil in the Byzantine empire. Professor Manning had already linked a failure of the Nile flood to the collapse of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt.

Neither the volcanic eruption nor the consequent climate disruption can be said to have “caused” ancient power struggles. But a backdrop of instability,  hunger and famine can be linked to conflict, and climate is now seen as an inseparable factor. Cold, heavy rain at the wrong season can ruin any harvest.

“In the Mediterranean region, these wet and extremely cold conditions during the agriculturally important spring through autumn seasons probably reduced crop yields and compounded supply problems during the ongoing political upheavals of the period,” said Andrew Wilson of the University of Oxford, another author.

“These findings lend credibility to reports of cold, famine, food shortage and disease described by ancient sources.” – Climate News Network

An Alaskan volcano once spurred climate change, darkening Mediterranean skies, launching a famine and possibly changing history.

LONDON, 1 July, 2020 – Once again, geologists have shown that climate change can be linked to some of the most dramatic moments in human history: civil strife in the Roman Republic that ended with the fall of a Greek dynasty in Egypt and the rise of the Roman Empire.

The summers just after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE (Before the Christian Era) were among the coldest in the northern hemisphere for thousands of years, and this sudden prolonged chill can be linked to lost harvests, famine, the failure of the all-important Nile flood and the death of the Roman Mark Antony and the last of Egypt’s Ptolemaic rulers, Cleopatra.

The trigger for that cold shadow over the Mediterranean theatre of history? Summer and autumn temperatures fell to as much as 7°C below normal because on the far side of the hemisphere an Alaskan volcano erupted in 43 BCE to hurl colossal quantities of soot and sulphates into the stratosphere and dim the sun’s radiation for much of the next decade.

And the evidence? Deposits of volcanic ash in the Arctic ice cores that can be linked directly to one once-smoking crater in the Aleutian islands now known as Okmok, according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Average temperatures fell dramatically. Summer rainfall in southern Europe rose by 50% to 120% above normal. Autumn rainfall rose fourfold.

“To find a volcano on the other side of the Earth contributed to the demise of the Egyptians and the rise of the Roman Empire is fascinating”

The rest is history: literally. Roman and Chinese chronicles surviving from that time record what scientists call “unusual atmospheric phenomena” as well as “widespread famine.”

Less directly, records of lead pollution preserved in the annual layers of ice in Greenland tell a story of economic decline, reflected in what might be the reduction of mining and smelting of lead and silver during the last years of the Roman Republic.

And the effect on the hemisphere’s climate was also recorded in the annual flow and flood of the River Nile, a regular inundation that enriched the grain harvest of the Nile Valley, and supplied bread for Rome and its sister cities.

The research was led by Joe McConnell of the US Desert Research Institute in Nevada. “To find a volcano on the other side of the Earth erupted and effectively contributed to the demise of the Romans and the Egyptians and the rise of the Roman Empire is fascinating,” he said. “It certainly shows how interconnected the world was even 2000 years ago.”

And one of his co-authors, Joseph Manning of Yale University, said: “We know that the Nile River did not flood in 43 BCE and 42 BCE – and now we know why. The volcanic eruption greatly affected the Nile watershed.”

Climate’s role

That mass migration, conflict and the collapse of once-stable regimes can be linked to climate change is not news: researchers have repeatedly found that drought, cold and harvest failure can be matched with the collapse of ancient empires in the Middle East and in the Bronze Age Mediterranean.

Just 1500 years ago volcanic eruptions have been timed to the famine, the Plague of Justinian, and other turmoil in the Byzantine empire. Professor Manning had already linked a failure of the Nile flood to the collapse of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt.

Neither the volcanic eruption nor the consequent climate disruption can be said to have “caused” ancient power struggles. But a backdrop of instability,  hunger and famine can be linked to conflict, and climate is now seen as an inseparable factor. Cold, heavy rain at the wrong season can ruin any harvest.

“In the Mediterranean region, these wet and extremely cold conditions during the agriculturally important spring through autumn seasons probably reduced crop yields and compounded supply problems during the ongoing political upheavals of the period,” said Andrew Wilson of the University of Oxford, another author.

“These findings lend credibility to reports of cold, famine, food shortage and disease described by ancient sources.” – Climate News Network

Warming raises threat of global famine repeat

famine

Global warming is increasing the chances of worldwide harvest failure on the scale of the tragic 19th-century drought and famine that claimed 50 million lives.

LONDON, 19 October, 2018 − Climate change driven by human-induced global warming could recreate the conditions for a re-run of one of the most tragic episodes in human history, the Great Drought and Global Famine of 1875 to 1878.

Those years were marked by widespread and prolonged droughts in Asia, Brazil and Africa, triggered by a coincidence of unusual conditions in the Pacific, Indian and North Atlantic Oceans.

The famine – made more lethal by the political constraints linked to 19th-century colonial domination of three continents – is now thought to have claimed up to 50 million lives.

And the message contained in new research published in the Journal of Climate is stark: what happened before could happen again.

One of the triggers was a cyclic blister of Pacific warming called El Niño, known to reverse global weather patterns, scorch rainforests and destabilise societies.

Another factor was a set of record warm temperatures in the North Atlantic that have been linked to drought in North Africa.

Linked to famine

A third was an unusually strong Indian Ocean dipole, a natural cyclic temperature change that has recently been linked to famine in the Horn of Africa.

The 1875-78 drought and famine began with the failure of the monsoon in India and China, leading to the most intense drought in the last 800 years. So many died in Shanxi province, China, that the population was restored to 1875 levels only in 1953.

The combination of record ocean temperatures and a very strong El Niño also intensified and prolonged droughts in Brazil and Australia. One million people are thought to have perished in the Nordeste province of Brazil.

In India, British colonial powers hoarded grain and exported it to England while continuing, the authors say, “to collect harsh taxes”.

Hunger, followed by typhoid and cholera, so weakened Asian and Africa societies that the French could colonise North Africa, and British forces could finally defeat the Zulu Nation in South Africa in 1879.

In effect, the authors say, the famine helped advance global inequalities and divide the globe into “first” and “third” worlds.

“Hydrological impacts intensified by global warming could again potentially undermine global food security”

Deepti Singh, a climate scientist at Washington State University Vancouver, has already identified an ominous weakening of the South Asian monsoon.

In her latest study, she and colleagues looked closely at historic records and what climate scientists call proxy evidence – tree ring measurements around the world, for instance – to identify the global climate conditions that must have driven the drought and famine.

“Climate conditions that caused the Great Drought and Global Famine arose from natural variability,” the researchers write. “And their recurrence – with hydrological impacts intensified by global warming – could again potentially undermine global food security.”

In fact, food security and the impact of climate change has become a recurring research theme.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that human-induced global warming can only intensify drought, not just in those already vulnerable regions but also in the fertile and flourishing farmlands of the US and the teeming rainforests of the Amazon.

Catastrophic drought

Studies of the deep past have identified catastrophic, prolonged drought long ago in the eastern Mediterranean, birthplace of agriculture and again suffering from recent sustained drought.

More recent research has confirmed that heat extremes and drought could seriously afflict grain yields in Europe and crop yields worldwide, while drought and monsoon failure present an immediate threat to food supplies in south-east Asia.

Agriculture anywhere is always a gamble on the familiar pattern of climate. Farmers tend to go on planting crops that do well, and some farmers, somewhere, will always experience crop failure.

Multiple disruption

However, the latest study confirms that any change in the global forces that drive weather – and these include air and ocean temperatures – could also make more probable a kind of multiple disruption of the normal.

And that, the researchers suggest, could bring back the triple hazard of disastrous change in all three oceans at the same time. Widespread, sustained drought could become even more severe.

In the last 150 years, the world has changed, politically and economically, but the researchers say that “such extreme events would still lead to severe shocks to the global food system, with local food insecurity in vulnerable countries potentially amplified by today’s highly-connected global food trade network”.

And they argue that better understanding of how the machinery of climate works to produce such devastating drought “should translate into improved prediction of the consequences of any such future event and allow effective management of the resulting food crises, so that the next Great Drought does not trigger another Great Famine.” – Climate News Network

Global warming is increasing the chances of worldwide harvest failure on the scale of the tragic 19th-century drought and famine that claimed 50 million lives.

LONDON, 19 October, 2018 − Climate change driven by human-induced global warming could recreate the conditions for a re-run of one of the most tragic episodes in human history, the Great Drought and Global Famine of 1875 to 1878.

Those years were marked by widespread and prolonged droughts in Asia, Brazil and Africa, triggered by a coincidence of unusual conditions in the Pacific, Indian and North Atlantic Oceans.

The famine – made more lethal by the political constraints linked to 19th-century colonial domination of three continents – is now thought to have claimed up to 50 million lives.

And the message contained in new research published in the Journal of Climate is stark: what happened before could happen again.

One of the triggers was a cyclic blister of Pacific warming called El Niño, known to reverse global weather patterns, scorch rainforests and destabilise societies.

Another factor was a set of record warm temperatures in the North Atlantic that have been linked to drought in North Africa.

Linked to famine

A third was an unusually strong Indian Ocean dipole, a natural cyclic temperature change that has recently been linked to famine in the Horn of Africa.

The 1875-78 drought and famine began with the failure of the monsoon in India and China, leading to the most intense drought in the last 800 years. So many died in Shanxi province, China, that the population was restored to 1875 levels only in 1953.

The combination of record ocean temperatures and a very strong El Niño also intensified and prolonged droughts in Brazil and Australia. One million people are thought to have perished in the Nordeste province of Brazil.

In India, British colonial powers hoarded grain and exported it to England while continuing, the authors say, “to collect harsh taxes”.

Hunger, followed by typhoid and cholera, so weakened Asian and Africa societies that the French could colonise North Africa, and British forces could finally defeat the Zulu Nation in South Africa in 1879.

In effect, the authors say, the famine helped advance global inequalities and divide the globe into “first” and “third” worlds.

“Hydrological impacts intensified by global warming could again potentially undermine global food security”

Deepti Singh, a climate scientist at Washington State University Vancouver, has already identified an ominous weakening of the South Asian monsoon.

In her latest study, she and colleagues looked closely at historic records and what climate scientists call proxy evidence – tree ring measurements around the world, for instance – to identify the global climate conditions that must have driven the drought and famine.

“Climate conditions that caused the Great Drought and Global Famine arose from natural variability,” the researchers write. “And their recurrence – with hydrological impacts intensified by global warming – could again potentially undermine global food security.”

In fact, food security and the impact of climate change has become a recurring research theme.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that human-induced global warming can only intensify drought, not just in those already vulnerable regions but also in the fertile and flourishing farmlands of the US and the teeming rainforests of the Amazon.

Catastrophic drought

Studies of the deep past have identified catastrophic, prolonged drought long ago in the eastern Mediterranean, birthplace of agriculture and again suffering from recent sustained drought.

More recent research has confirmed that heat extremes and drought could seriously afflict grain yields in Europe and crop yields worldwide, while drought and monsoon failure present an immediate threat to food supplies in south-east Asia.

Agriculture anywhere is always a gamble on the familiar pattern of climate. Farmers tend to go on planting crops that do well, and some farmers, somewhere, will always experience crop failure.

Multiple disruption

However, the latest study confirms that any change in the global forces that drive weather – and these include air and ocean temperatures – could also make more probable a kind of multiple disruption of the normal.

And that, the researchers suggest, could bring back the triple hazard of disastrous change in all three oceans at the same time. Widespread, sustained drought could become even more severe.

In the last 150 years, the world has changed, politically and economically, but the researchers say that “such extreme events would still lead to severe shocks to the global food system, with local food insecurity in vulnerable countries potentially amplified by today’s highly-connected global food trade network”.

And they argue that better understanding of how the machinery of climate works to produce such devastating drought “should translate into improved prediction of the consequences of any such future event and allow effective management of the resulting food crises, so that the next Great Drought does not trigger another Great Famine.” – Climate News Network