It’s interesting what a set of Political Correctness blinders can do to folks…
I was watching a program on The National Geographic channel (it’s part of the package, so I’m buying it in any case) with the provocative title “2012 Countdown to Armageddon” (yes, NatGeo has gotten THAT bad with scaremongering headlines and all).
This link gets to the video sample (who’s embed code is not liked by WordPress)
They have a link that describes the filming, too:
The interesting thing to me was that it was still a decent presentation of some nice photography and had interviews with some decent scientists. It did, however, feel compelled to filter everything though the Global Warming PC Filter at the end. But in the middle, there was some decent data presented and some nice insights.
As long as you read between the lines.
The Importance of 5200 BP
There was a major event happened 5200 years before the present. It was global, it was cold, and there was a lot more moisture (at least in the mountains, as snow). I can’t overstate how important that point is.
Just as important, it was warm (very warm) just before that event.
How warm? Roughly the same as now and perhaps somewhat warmer. Take a look at the temperature picture above. In this case, that black ‘average’ line is less useful. The average hides the variations that can happen in a single data set. But notice that at about 5000 BP there is a brown spike up and a blue one just later. They then plunge down. Now look at the right edge where the 2004 arrow points. We are on just such a spike in one small data set. Though not as warm.
Now look back at that average line. It wiggles. Rise, then dip. Rise, then dip. And in between 6000 BP and 4000 BP we had a “little ice age” dip of sorts. Rather like the one just a few hundred years ago that shows as a ‘dip’ near our time on the right hand edge. In both cases, we warm out of that dip. But our future is not yet written. What happened in 5200 BP to present?
The temperature wobbled, then dropped, steadily but with a wiggle, to today. Overall, the long term trend is clearly downward from that peak about 7500 BP. If you fit a curve connecting the tops of the individual data set lines, you can immagine it rising, then rolling over, and continuing to drop through our instrumental data today. We’ve rounded the top and are headed down. In stock trading terms, we’ve got “Failure to Advance”. And to the extent that patterns repeat, we can place a reasonable bet that what happened 5200 BP is likely to happen again, as the cycle turns back to cooling.
So, what happened then? (From a Peruvian point of view)
Quelccaya is a “Tropical Ice Cap”, the largest one. It sits on top of the Andes in Peru. You will hear (and read) a great deal about how it’s retreated horridly “recently” and is not anywhere near as magnificent as it once was. How “Global Warming” is causing the glaciers to retreat and how it’s all our fault.
There are plant remnants being uncovered at the foot of that retreating glacier that says this place was a green growing area 5200 years BP and that it had a sudden and catastrophic change as snow fell, and never left. Until now.
Think about that for a minute. The plants are found ‘in growing positions’ and preserved so that you can see the leaves, stems, and details. They were suddenly “flash frozen” and never thawed. Until now. There are similar things around the world. Ötzi, the Iceman, fell in 5200 BP and was covered in snow. Then held in the freezer until now. And more.
The “Warmers” like to focus on how much the ice has retreated. What I find far more important is that:
1) There was no ice there 5200 BP. Things were warmer and growing. In the case of Ötzi, folks were walking where it has been ice covered ever since. The time of 5200 BP was warmer than now and it was natural.
2) There was a catastrophic and very sudden freezing that happened with incredible speed. Snow fell, and didn’t leave. For 5000 years. It did this globally. And it was natrual.
These two together say that there is no tipping point from here to the warm side. We’ve been warmer, and we didn’t keep on getting warm, we got very very cold. They also say that we can get very very cold again.
The Maya come into this in that they predict a change of the calendar in 2012. From the Wiki:
According to the correlation between the Long Count and Western calendars accepted by the great majority of Maya researchers (known as the GMT correlation), this starting-point is equivalent to August 11, 3114 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar
or about 5124 BP for their start of calendar date. Just about the time of the plunge.
The Maya Dresden Codex says that the calendar resets in 2012 and that it happens with a great downpour of water from the sky. The thesis is that they’ve been through this before and have a pretty good idea how things happen in this cycle of events.
Did they start their calendar period just after the last great event, to assure they were prepared for the next one? It’s possible it’s all just a grand coincidence, but these were some of the best astronomers in the world and they had a particularly accurate calendar. The Dresden Codex is fixated on weather and planting issues. This isn’t some “fluffy” praying to the sky gods, it’s a meat and potatoes (literally!) planting calendar. Critical for any farming society. They just look to have taken it to incredible extremes of duration (and accuracy, for their astronomical observations).
The 5.9 Kiloyear Event
At this point, we start to be ‘in the noise band’ on dates. Some are very accurate, like the carbon dates on the plants under the Quelccaya glacier. Others are more broad, like the dates for drop stones in sediments. Things disturb sediments. The layers can be smeared and hard to count. Sometimes fine dates, sometimes more broad.
But there is an event frequently called “The 5.9 Kiloyear Event”. It is also known as “Bond Event 4”. It could easily have been part of the 5200 BP process. Either as lead in, or as the same event and just with a sloppy fix on the date.
I suspect it was partially lead in (as it is characterized by aridification and in 5200 bp the rains came, hard) but part of the same overall process. A whipsaw. In 5900 BP we got dry and then all cold. It could easlily be that “Old Little Ice Age” or it could be the part just after it. The whipsaw.
At any rate, I think the two events are tightly coupled, we just don’t know how tightly.
From the wiki:
The 5.9 kiloyear event was one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene. It ended the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the desiccation of the Sahara desert.
So the lead in to this time had a wetter Sahara. The result was the Sahara as we know it today. It ended a very wet time called the “Neolithic Subpluvial”.
Thus, it also triggered worldwide migration to river valleys, e.g. from central North Africa to the Nile valley, what eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organised, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC. It is associated with the last round of the Sahara pump theory.
Here we get the impacts on our history. The move out of the Sahara into Egypt.
The Wiki then gives the obligatory sop to CO2, but this time “plants did it”. Nevermind that plants were around for a few million years… but at least they recognize the cyclical Bond Event.
A model by Claussen et al. (1999) suggested rapid desertification associated with vegetation atmosphere interactions following the 5.9 kiloyear cooling event (Bond event 4).
Meanwhile, back at reality:
Bond et at. (1997) identified a North Atlantic cooling episode at 5,900 BP from ice-rafted debris, as well as other such now called Bond events that indicate the existence of a quasiperiodic cycle of Atlantic cooling events, which occur approximately every 1500 years. For some reason, all of the earlier of these arid events (including the 8.2 kiloyear event) were followed by recovery, as attested by the wealth of evidence of humid conditions in the Sahara between 10,000 and 6,000 BP. However, it appears that the 5.9 kiloyear event was followed by a partial recovery at best, with accelerated desiccation in the millennium that followed. For example, Cremaschi (1998) describes evidence of rapid aridification in Tadrart Acacus of southwestern Libya, in the form of increased aeolian erosion, sand incursions and the collapse of the roofs of rock shelters.
The “some reason” is fairly clear to me. The Sahara needs a fairly warm world to suck in the moisture needed to stay lush and green. When it cools off too much, it turns into a desert. This history is fairly clearly saying that it got cooler. Too cool compared to before the 5.9 ky event to “recover” and to sustain a wet Sahara.
So we know that after Bond Event 4 things got even colder than in prior times. We’re on a rollercoaster downward. And while the Sahara dried out and became a desert, what happened in Peru? The snows came. Elsewhere in the world?
In the Middle East the 5.9 kiloyear event led to the abrupt end of the Ubaid period.
From the Ubaid wiki:
The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation. At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron.
It was drying out and the dunes came back as that band of the globe became more desert like.
The 5.9 kiloyear event was also recorded as a cold event in the Erhai Lake (China) sediments.
And it got cold in China too.
So you will hear some folks endlessly assert that cold is always drier. While that is true ON AVERAGE, the globe has no average climate. Some places dry, others get wetter. The Western USA is one of those places. We get wetter when it’s colder. The tops of mountains are another. They get colder and more snow falls. Glaciers advance. (Not always, though. There are some glaciers where the ‘lead in’ area is too dry to provide enough moisture for snow. But most of the time there is some moisture in the air, and that gets frozen out on colder mountain tops.) Given the symetrical nature of cold currents off the west costs of North and South America, I’d not be at all surprised to find they have the same “cold is wet” pattern that we have in the Western States.
Back to the 5.9 ky wiki:
Historically the period of the 5.9 kiloyear event is associated with the increased violence noticed in both Egypt and throughout the Middle East, leading eventually to the Early Dynastic Period in both Egypt 1st Dynasty and Sumeria. James DeMeo and Steve Taylor suggest that this period is associated with the rise of patriarchy, institutionalised warfare, social stratification, abuse of children, the development of the human ego, separation from the body, the rise of anthropomorphic gods and the concept of linear historic time.
It was a pretty rough time in ‘ol Egypt.
So things started off with a drying process in the desert bands that drove migrations. It got colder. Then, on the mountain tops, it got very very cold and a boat load of snow started to fall. The “wet zones” of latitude continued wet, but it was a very cold snowy wet.
Now we can start to see the history shaping up. The desert latitude bands do dry out more as they cool, but the oceans need to cool too, and they dump moisture into the air. That moisture falls as snow at higher elevations and stays there, making the glaciers that have persisted to this day. To this time when we’ve almost warmed back to where we were (but not quite, the Sahara is still a desert). But now we’re lined up for the next cold plunge. The next 5200 year cycle of the calendar.
I note in passing that the Roman Empire used to grow a lot of grain in North Africa. The region has dried out since then. We had a Little Ice Age, rather like that cold period in the Chinese sediments.
It looks to me like we might have had the analog of the 5.9 kyr event in the Little Ice Age, then had a bit of warming out of it just before the next Bond Event (or perhaps the Little Ice Age was Bond Event Zero, and we’re now headed into the long slow decline, like the one after Bond Event 4). That thesis could use a lot more detail to flesh it out and see if the parallels hold at finer grain scales of time and space; but I think it makes a decent starting point for a hypothesis. But given that Bond Events have a couple of hundred year error band on the dating, it could just as easily be that the 5200 BP event in Peru IS Bond Event 4. Just more precisely dated.
In any case, the record is pretty clear. It started to snow in the Andes, and in the Alps, and that snow buried things that stayed buried for 5,000 years. Until the next turn of the Maya calendar is scheduled to arrive just as those things are once again melting out from under the glaciers. Looks like a cycle to me…
Back at Nat Geo
OK, they had a presenter (Nikolai Grube – University of Bonn) talking about the Maya Dresden Codex. He’s the expert on it and he read parts of the last page on camera. Some rough transcribed quotes:
“The last page of the Dresden Codex is prophetic” and is about inundation by water. A couple of glyphs were interpreted as ‘rain’, one being “black rain” or “black clouds” with “lightning”. “Destructive rain” and “Black clouds in the sky with lightning”. “Destruction of the earth through rain”.
He has a more global meaning to the destruction. To me it could just mean your garden variety floods messing up the farm land. Given that the rest of the Codex is oriented towards growing food and calendar events, I’d go with the ‘crop risk flood’ as opposed to the ‘end of the Earth’ interpretation.
He has a wiki page
and I think this is his page at Bonn (or it’s someone that looks like him with the same name ;-)
Ok, having established that the Maya thought we were in for a drenching, and playing up the “destruction of the earth” angle, Nat Geo runs off to Peru with Dr. Adam Maloof (of Princeton U.) as narrator. (As near as I can tell, just because he can talk to Dr. Lonnie Thompson and keep it straight).
Maloof has a Princeton page:
but he mostly is just a conduit for what Lonnie Thompson had to say. Lonnie has both a wiki:
and an Ohio State U. page:
What I found interesting in the presentation was that here they were, staring at a retreating glacier. Right next to a 12 to 18 foot wall of ice. Looking at 5200 year old plant remains, and talking about them having been flash frozen… and they give a wet kiss to “global warming” and “climate change”. All the time standing on the evidence that we’d been warmer than this before (as those plants were flourishing in a field, not under ice) and all that happened is we got suddenly colder.
Now Lonnie impressed me as the kind of guy would could state the facts and IMPLY the PC position without actually endorsing it, at least as long as funding depends on the Wet Kiss. But it was a strange thing, hearing them talk about how warm it was then, and how cold since then.
Some quotes? OK, Lonnie is studying the Quelccaya ice cap as it retreats. They gave the obligatory moan about it having shrunk from 56 to 40 kilometers^2 during his 35 years of study. (Ignoring that the shrinkage was the only reason he found what he found… and ignoring that it had grown from a warmer time in the past…) Maloof asserted they can get annual scale granularity out of the ice, and they both discussed the well preserved plants being exposed. There was a discussion of the fact that the freezing was very rapid to preserve such detail.
Lonnie: “5200 years ago this whole plateau was covered by a very large cold snow event and it buried all the vegetation at the same time.”
Maloof: [it] “was warm and boggy” then a very abrupt cover of snow “maybe overnight”.
All this while standing in front of a 3 – 4 meter glacial front edge.
Lonnie: ~”wetland plants exposed at the retreating front of the ice have been carbon dated to 5200 BP” “Fine preservation in growth positions”. “Flash frozen” rapidly to capture the plants.
Maloof: “cooling and wetting”
Lonnie then went on to say that the Maya were thought to have had a similar abrupt event and listed Ötzi, the Kilimajaro ice cores, and cultural records from the Maya and Hindu as recording similar events.
The show then ended with the obligatory voice over on Climate Change / Global Warming at the end and a very soppy episode of Lonni saying he had “no idea” what was to come but mentioned “abrupt change” and Maloof then mutates the 5200 BP rain induced flooding into an analog with AGW induced sea level rise flooding.
I was astounded to see such “mutilation of the reality” to try to force fit mountain snows and glacier building into a ‘glacier melting and sea level rise’ analogy.
OK, I looked in the abstracts of some of Lonnie Thompson’s papers. They make sense to me, right up until they have the obligatory Global Warming tag lines. All I can figure is that he’s hitched to the Gravy Train as he needs the funding so glues on an AGW bit at the end of what otherwise looks like decent work.
For example, from this paper (I’ve bolded the PC tag lines, the reality is hidden between them):
Three lines of evidence for abrupt tropical climate change, both past and present, are presented. First, annually and decadally averaged δ18O and net mass-balance histories for the last 400 and 2,000 yr, respectively, demonstrate that the current warming at high elevations in the mid- to low latitudes is unprecedented for at least the last 2 millennia. Second, the continuing retreat of most mid- to low-latitude glaciers, many having persisted for thousands of years, signals a recent and abrupt change in the Earth’s climate system. Finally, rooted, soft-bodied wetland plants, now exposed along the margins as the Quelccaya ice cap (Peru) retreats, have been radiocarbon dated and, when coupled with other widespread proxy evidence, provide strong evidence for an abrupt mid-Holocene climate event that marked the transition from early Holocene (pre-5,000-yr-B.P.) conditions to cooler, late Holocene (post-5,000-yr-B.P.) conditions. This abrupt event, ≈5,200 yr ago, was widespread and spatially coherent through much of the tropics and was coincident with structural changes in several civilizations. These three lines of evidence argue that the present warming and associated glacier retreat are unprecedented in some areas for at least 5,200 yr. The ongoing global-scale, rapid retreat of mountain glaciers is not only contributing to global sea-level rise but also threatening freshwater supplies in many of the world’s most populous regions.
I’ve bolded the bits where the “spin” is put in. Not really lies, just making it fit the narrative. Lots of “unprecedented warming”.. except that it’s dancing around the elephant in the room of the very much PRECEDENTED warming of 5300 BP. Unprecidented for part of a cycle, ordinary in the context of the whole wobble.
Isn’t it amazing what the need to filter things through PC blinder can do to folks?
To me, it’s pretty clear. We’ve got a 1470 +/- year Bond Event cycle. The Maya have identified a 5200 year cycle outside of that (and given the couple of hundred year error band on Bond Events, it could be a multiple of them or a ‘quasi cycle’ anomaly where you get a ‘skip beat’ or interference pattern that shifts things a bit). 5300 BP things were about like they are now (though a bit warmer) and when that cycle turned, it was accompanied by a boat load of snow at higher elevations around the planet. We did a minor plunge into a cold phase that is only now relenting. Just about the time for the cycle to turn again.
At this point, I dearly hope the AGW theory is correct, because we’re going to need all the warmth we can get.
The only “good news” from my point of view is that if we’re lucky, it has a couple of hundred year error band on it and we might get to dodge this cold plunge and have it hit a generation or two from now. But given that other lines of investigation have said we’re due for a solar quiet induced cold plunge, I’m not all that hopeful…
FWIW, for any cycle longer than about a day, you will frequently see folks making the error of linear projection of the trend rather than seeing that it’s just a part of a cyclical pattern. That tendency regularly screws folks up in stock trading. Play a trend, but ONLY until it reverses…