The Crisis of 1300 AD

We have just finished the “Modern Optimum”, IMHO, and are now at an end of that turn of the cycle.

There have been prior such turns. Some back in the times of ancient Egypt:

Ground penetrating radar, sediment coring, malacological and foraminiferal studies, radiocarbon dates, and rheological models demonstrate that the wadi bed adjacent to the terrace was once an open, protected bay. The base of the corraline / conglomerate terrace consists of a narrow coral-beach rock platform (dated at ~3500 BP) presently buried by anthropogenic, eolian, and colluvial sediments. Ubiquitous medium-fine wadi sediments underlie and extend beyond the beach rock. Malachological analyses, foraminifera distributions, radiocarbon dates, and sedimentological data indicate that these sediments were deposited in a protected tidal lagoon receiving infrequent freshwater inputs. Wave-cut notches along the seaward shoreline confirm a site-specific rheological model for the northern the Red Sea that indicates a sea-level highstand (~1 m above present MHW) during or immediately prior to occupation. Late during the period of occupation, the lagoon began to close as equatorial siphoning forced a regional sea-level fall while at the same time, riverine discharge through the wadi processes were infilling the bay at rates on the order of .25 cm/year.

Notice that One Meter above present mean high water mark? So much for “unprecedented sea level”…

One was the Medieval Optimum. There is an interesting little graph of what temperatures have historically been ascribed to that time in this article: about global warming issues.

Temperature History with MWP

Temperature History with MWP

Original Image of Medieval Optimum

That got me wondering…

What happened in that circa 1300 “fall from warmth” into a cold Little Ice Age? And given that our present temperatures are not as high now as they were then, what will this time be like? ( We can know temperatures were warmer then from many sources. From Roman villas built without heating in places that now need it – and with Romans having evidenced their abilities to build in heating and closed space; to the fact that several historic ports from that era are now landlocked, abandoned by a receding sea.

So what does history say about that time of change? That end of the last “unprecedented warming”?

Well, looking around is a bit sparse. Folks don’t write a lot during times of social collapse…

is offering a book for sale.


This paper focuses on the climatic transition between the Little Climatic Optimum (approximately AD 750–1300 or 1200-650 cal yr BP) and the Little Ice Age (approximately AD 1300–1800 or 650-150 cal yr BP) in the Pacific Islands. This transition was marked by rapid temperature and sea-level fall, and perhaps by sharply-increased precipitation associated with an increase in El Nino frequency.

Examples from throughout the Pacific Islands demonstrate the possible and/or likely effects of sea-level fall at this time on inland horticulture through water-table fall; on coral reefs and lagoons through the emergence of reef surfaces and the consequent reduction of nearshore water circulation; on the emergence of reef islets and the conversion of tidal inlets to brackish lakes. The effects of such changes on human lifestyles are explored.

Well, we’ve certainly got the sea level headed for a standstill, to be followed by a drop. We’ve also had the start of heavy rains globally. Sure sounds like the same pattern. I’d love to read more, but that would take buying the book and spending a few hours. Hours I don’t have right now.

Another view of the same event is available here:

Almost all paleoclimate records for the Pacific Basin show a period of warmer-than-present climate known as the “Holocene Climatic Optimum,” approximately 6000-3000 B.P. in the central tropical Pacific (Nunn 1999). This period marked a time of maximum opportunity for biota, warm temperatures, and higher sea level, which produced a greater range of habitat diversity than today. In most parts of the Pacific Basin, mean annual precipitation also appears to have been greater than today. Since the Holocene Climatic Optimum ended, this region has generally experienced cooling, sea-level fall and, in places, a fall in precipitation and loss of biodiversity attributable to climate change.

Owing to the imprecision of methods for calculating paleotemperature over short time periods, few such records for the Pacific span the past 1,200 years or so (Figure 1A). Of those that have been compiled, most show that temperatures reached close to modern levels around 750 and then rose slowly throughout the Medieval Climate Anomaly until around 1300. Around or shortly after this time, temperatures fell rapidly, reaching levels below their modern levels early in the Little Ice Age, or about 1450. Sea-level change has proved to be a useful proxy for temperature change during the past 1,200 years along tropical Pacific coasts. Evidence shows that sea levels rose slowly during the Medieval Climate Anomaly before falling as much as 135 centimeters (typically 70-80 centimeters) during the A.D. 1300 Event (Figure 1B). During the ensuing Little Ice Age, sea levels appear to have remained below their present levels before they began to rise again around A.D. 1800-1850. Although direct evidence is not widely available, it has been inferred that the A.D. 1300 Event was, compared with the preceding Medieval Climate Anomaly, a period of increased storminess (Bridgman 1983; Nunn and Britton 2001), marking an increased incidence of El Nino events (Figure 1C) and ushering in greater climate variability during the Little Ice Age (M. E. Mann and others 2005).

So we’ve not gotten back to as warm as it was during that Egyptian time, 4000 BC to 1000 BC; and we’ve had a cold plunge from an intermediate level warm period, and not quite recovered all the way from it… And not it looks like we are about to enter the next leg down, given the present solar funk and rapid global cooling with excessive rains. But how fast?

Only a few studies allow one to deduce the timing and the magnitude of temperature fall during the A.D. 1300 Event. Dendrochronological investigations in southern Alaska show a multidecadal warm interval centered on 1300 and a corresponding cool interval centered on 1400 (Barclay, Wiles, and Calkin 1999). In the Columbia Icefield of western Canada, similar research showed a rapid temperature fall of around 1.2[degrees]C beginning around 1290 (Luckman and others 1997). Depletion of [.sup.18.O] during the A.D. 1300 Event found in ice cores from Quelccaya in the Peruvian Andes shows that this transition was very rapid there, occurring about 1380 within a few decades (Thompson and others 2003). In northern Patagonia the event began around 1250 and reached a temperature minimum around 1340 (Villalba 1990). In China’s Henan Province temperature fall during the event, which began around 1264, was at least 0.9-1.0[degrees]C (Zhang 1994). In a nearby area the event lasted approximately a century, between a time of maximum dryness about 1260 and maximum coldness about 1470 (Chu and others 2002). Analysis of phenological data from the Huanghe and Yangtze Valleys reveal rapid…

A bit scattered in time of onset (perhaps errors, perhaps it just hits different places over time as the global process unwinds. It would be worth it to make a time line of those places and watch for parallels now.) But fairly rapit in each place as it hits. And accompanied by excessive rains as the hydrological cycle pumps heat to the stratosphere and off the planet, then the water condenses falling as snow, hail, rain, …

Another link was more interesting, but hard to figure out how to give attribution. Connection to the top level domain gives a ‘page not found’, so I don’t know what the site is. Yet their description of the time is compelling:

CRISIS, 1300 AD – 1350 AD

Poor harvests had already brought hardship by the 1290s but there were even more bad years at the beginning of the new century and in a disastrous series of wet summers in 1315, 1316 and 1317 caused a famine. At least half a million people died; and land sales on an unprecedented scale combined with a crime wave, are clear evidence of social distress. In some places the population recovered after the Great Famine but numbers usually stagnated or declined. By 1340 much land in the midlands lay uncultivated and reclaimed wetlands on the south and east coasts were being invaded by the sea. In 1348 – 1349 the Black Death killed about half of the population. These were not just a series of unfortunate accidents caused by bad weather and the arrival of a new bacteria. Growth was ending before the disasters – land was no longer available on a large scale and after reaching a peak in 1300 AD, the volume of trade began to shrink. New towns and markets were no longer being founded. When the famine came it struck an already undernourished population. Prosperous, confident societies recover from natural disasters. The crises of the 14th Century exposed the principle weakness of Medieval development – it had left millions of smallholders in the country and the laborers in the towns who could hope to earn no more than 30 shillings in a year and that was not enough to support a family. They could make ends meet in good years with wives and children contributing to their earnings but any large rise in the price of grain threatened their lives. Had the Black Death been a simple outbreak of disease, there would have been rapid recovery; instead the plague recurred in the 1360s and there seems to have been no sustained rise in births to replace the losses.
Various explanations have been offered for this reversal of fortunes. It is argued that the commercial growth which had sustained the expansion ended because the market was glutted: in other words, that society which could support an urban proportion of roughly 20% and no more, and that only a further rise in productivity could break the impasse; that was not forthcoming. Alternatively, it is suggested that the problem was associated with an over-extension of cultivation which had taken in poor land and had caused imbalances between pastoral and arable farming, to the detriment of grain crops deprived of fertilization. On the other hand, technical solutions could have been found for such problems and the recession was not confined to arable – it hit regions specializing in pastoral farming. Perhaps, in that case, the high level of rents prevented the peasants from escaping from the trap of low productivity. Or perhaps the heavy taxation from the 1290s added a last straw to the burden of rent. Or perhaps society had become too hierarchical with the urban and rural elites holding back more enterprising spirits. Or as a final possibility, could the aristocrats have served as unproductive role models, encouraging the rest of society to spend rather than invest?
It is hard to form a clear answer. It is a search for explanations of a complex social malaise which affected the whole of western Europe and which lasted for more than a century. The crisis must be compared in the complexity of its causes with the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century.

Just so eerily similar to how one would describe our society today. Folks just getting by, with two earner families, and the rich not really caring other than to hold down the peasants. Spending rather than investing.

That same site goes on, with some jiggling of “back” buttons to find it, to this:

New labor laws attempted to peg wages at the pre-plague level and to force workers to accept contracts for employment. Specially appointed justices vigorously enforced the law in localities. On their manors lords held to the old rules, enforcing serfdom and resisting rent reductions. They actually increased the revenues for their courts putting a great deal of financial pressure on the reduced number of tenants. The poll taxes pf 1377 – 1380 insisted that everyone should pay a sum equal to a craftsman’s daily wage and when mass evasion of this tax was investigated in the summer of 1381 the people of the southeast rose in revolt.
So dramatic was the uprising, rightly called the ‘Great Revolt’, that those in authority thought that the lower classes had gone mad. But close examination of the reasoning behind the Revolt suggests that it had rational basis: it drew on ideas that went back centuries and also expressed the frustration of the tense 30 years that had followed the Black Death.

Very interesting times indeed…

It looks to me like we are in a pattern of “lower lows and lower highs”. Each rise, does not rise as far. Each dip, dips further. The cyclicality looks like it’s about a 1/2 Bond Event pace, but with full 1470 year stronger patterns too. Will this one be a ‘smaller one’ or a larger? Only time will tell…

In Conclusion

I think we need to, collectively, brush up on our 1300 AD history. What worked, what did not. Which societies fell, which survived. What places had the worst of it, and which places had an OK time.

Perhaps even a bit of “how did the pattern move around the globe?”. If China was hit in 1264, but Patagonia in 1250, one could, perhaps, choose to be in Peru and areas near it where the ice cores show a time closer to 1380. A good 40 years after the ‘minimum’ in Patagonia. Perhaps a huddle at the equator for a generation is in order…

I also note that China has recently had some very bad droughts. And what did that article say?

“In China’s Henan Province temperature fall during the event, which began around 1264, was at least 0.9-1.0[degrees]C (Zhang 1994). In a nearby area the event lasted approximately a century, between a time of maximum dryness about 1260 and maximum coldness about 1470 (Chu and others 2002)

So it has floods and heavy rains in the Pacific (and Europe) at the onset, but droughts in China… then spends a century getting colder.

Oh dear.

Update: 24 June 2011

Added this Carbon 14 graph from wiki.

Carbon14 with activity labels

Carbon14 with activity labels

As Pyromancer76 talks about it. Interesting that it shows a strong C14 correlation with known temperature cycles of history, very high C14 now, and we presently are having a warm period rather like during the MWP when C14 was also high. Looks like a much better fit to me than the CO2 thesis.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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37 Responses to The Crisis of 1300 AD

  1. George says:

    This book might be worth looking at:

    I have lent my copy to a friend out of town or I would offer to lend it to you.

  2. R. de Haan says:

    I don’t think we have to look back as far as 1300, the beginning of the Little Ice Age which lasted until 1900.
    We have a well documented history what happened in the Netherlands during the Maunder Minimum, 1620-1720 and beyond off course.
    Amazingly the Dutch managed to ban famine during this worst period of the Little Ice Age because of long distance trade that was possible thanks to technological developments in shipbuilding, a revolution in agriculture and the establishment of huge warehouses.
    Trade was undertaken with the Baltic States and the South and the Dutch went as far as Indonesia, Japan and China.
    Without long distance trade and the invention of intensive agriculture famine and epidemics that arrived like clockwork during the previous times would have continued during the Maunder Minimum/

    Dutch farmers experimented with lay farming, the deliberate growing of animal fodder and cultivating grasslands for cattle. In addition they started systematic breeding of cows and the Frisian milk cow is probably the most famous example of this.

    Another innovation was the continuous growing of specialized crops. Instead of letting valuable ground lay fallow, they planted peas, beans and especially nitrogen-rich clover, all of which provided food for humans and animals alike. The vegetables were rotated with grain, turnips and later potato for export but also for feeding dairy cattle. As a result of this system the amount of fallow land contracted rapidly until non was existent. Agriculture became an intensive activity.

    The new intensive agriculture produced such a high surplus that Flanders and later the Netherlands could specialize and diversify their agricultural activity. With abundance of fodder, animal and dairy farming (think of Dutch cheese) became increasingly important. More meat, wool, and leather as well cheese cam on the market as the new agriculture broke the dependence on grain. At the same time farmers diversified into industrial crops such as flax, mustard and hops for brewing beer (still enjoying this great invention).

    This agricultural revolution could not have succeeded when new ships to withstand the harsher climatic conditions imported large amounts of grain form the Baltic, undermining local grain production. These grain imports made the Flemish and Dutch economy independent from climatic fluctuations causing famine.

    We now have a call from the Greens to reduce long distance trade and further local independent communities that are self supporting with low carbon foot prints (no energy and poverty).

    To me it is clear this Green bunch of traitors only have one single aim.
    To undermine our current civilization and kill as much of us in the shortest possible time.

    Reviving common knowledge from the past is the best way to secure our future. Especially because we now have an entire generation that lost more knowledge than gained.

    Never in time there has been a period where the history of our past has become more important than today. And this historic knowledge is not only limited to the lessons learned during the Maunder Minimum.
    The history of the USSR, the NAZI’s, Mao and Pol Pot should be on the educational agenda as well so people would have the ability to recognize a totalitarian doctrine the moment it sticks up it’s ugly face. People would be vigilant and ready to smash it. Now they elect the wrong guys in Office and walk away with any “feel good” slogan even if the guy makes the promise to kill the coal industry.
    With sufficient people having detailed knowledge of our past history branded in their minds we wouldn’t be called deniers today and the Greens wouldn’t survive a single day.

    So thanks for yet another great article.

  3. George says:

    The Great Famine was particularly interesting because there were parts of Europe that never completely recovered in population until the 20th century.

    Most of what is Belgium and Northern France were being populated by folks who would come into an area, burn down a section of forest, grow crops until the land gave out, then move on to the next section. The period started with a summer that rained nearly continuously. Fields were flooded, bridges washed away. Crops were washed away. The following winter was very cold. The worst of the weather lasted only five years but that five years was enough to decimate the population. The thing is, people have to eat every day. You might be able to go a while without food, but then you become weak and are subject to all sorts of diseases. They didn’t have modern sanitation or vaccinations. Sickness would run through the community like a fire through a forest.

    Eastern Europe tended to fare better during this time but they also experienced hardship as trade with people West of them was greatly diminished. Five years of harsh weather depleted the population to such an extent that it took over 600 years for it to recover in some places (no doubt the population would have recovered sooner if not for the various wars across Europe over the years, but that’s a different subject).

    The point is that one single bad frost is all it takes to create a situation that can take years to recover from. Two years with killing frosts or floods during growing season, and it can be a a global crisis. Five years when a place like the US Midwest can’t bring in a crop, and it would be horrible.

    The Northern Plains of the US are getting a taste of that right now. Now imagine what would happen if winter comes early this year and stays late next spring followed by summer rains again next year like we are having this year.

    Now throw in a killing frost in August just for good measure. What crops were growing in the soggy fields are now dead. It isn’t a pretty picture.

  4. Judy F. says:


    Several things come to mind. First, many farms now are so specialized that there is not the variety of crops or animals on each farm that there used to be. In our immediate area there is mainly wheat and grazing cattle, because there is virtually no irrigation. At least we will have bread and beef to eat. Within 25 miles we get into irrigated country, where there is corn, alfalfa, sugar beets and large cattle feedlots. People still have home gardens, so there are some local veggies. There are few fruit trees or nuts, so that supply would be limited locally.

    But there are other problems that are more complex. First, there are a lot more people in the city than there were centuries ago who have little or no access to food. We have probably all seen grocery stores with bare shelves when storm warnings go up and people shop to stock up on the basics. Imagine what it will be like when there are no large trucks to replenish supplies. Our food chain from farmer to grocery store is complex and covers many miles. You would not believe how many people are naive enough to really think that food only comes from grocery stores. Back in 1300, most people would walk down the street and be able to buy or barter direct from the grower- not so any more.

    Secondlly, people don’t know how to cook their own food, especially from scratch. In this day of pre-made and pre- packaged food, many people would starve while looking at a warehouse full of wheat because they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Just think about it. How many people know how to make bread, butter, preserve their own food, keep their shelves stocked with necessities or even cook. It sounds trite, but I think it is a big deal. I live far from the grocery store, so I always have things on hand, but many people don’t have more than a couple days food on hand.

    I also think that the people who will survive the best, will be those who are multi talented. In my own family, we can cook, can, sew, do woodworking and basic electric, garden,farm, raise animals, keep bees etc. The boys have sheared sheep and done their own butchering of animals they have raised or hunted. I think we will be so much better off than the office worker, living in an apartment who eats only fresh veggies from the local organic market. And we’ll be healthier too, having been exposed to germs from animals and dirt, so our immune systems are stronger.

    A side note on the weather. It has been cool and wet here. We had a very dry winter, with less than 15 inches of snow, where our normal is probably 48 inches in a season. In the past week, I have gotten over 4 inches of rain and my son, who lives 3 miles from me, has gotten over 6 inches. Our yearly precipitation is about 14-16 inches, so in one week we have gotten about 1/3 to 1/4 of our yearly total. ( in our area one inch of snow = 0.1 inch of water) It has been cool this month. I delayed putting in my garden by two weeks because I was worried about late frosts. I don’t think the tomatoes or peppers have grown at all. About half the potatoes rotted in the ground. We have had 3 hailstorms in one weeks time. when I went to town to get groceries last week, looking at the local cornfields, I don’t think the corn was more than 6 inches tall. The rule of thumb here is ” knee high by the fourth of July”. I don’t know if it will make it or not. It is supposed to get into the upper 80’s by the end of the week and that is the warmest stretch we have had yet. The alfalfa has grown well, but it has gotten rained on after being swathed. ( that lowers the nutritional value) The pastures are beautifully green with all the rain, so the Mamas and baby calves have plenty to eat. They should do well, at least if the rain doesn’t completely shut off. Interesting year.

    Just my view from the country.

  5. R. de Haan says:

    You’re right George,
    Before 1600 it only took a single bad farming season to create a famine.
    However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that much of the hardship was caused by the endless onset of the numerous wars. Destruction of the crops and confiscation of crops were a major problem.
    This changed thanks to the introduction of the potato which couldn’t be destroyed by fire or trampled by horses.

    We currently have heavy rains and severe flooding in Eastern China with 1.5 million people evacuated and entire provinces and farm land under water and crops 100% destroyed.

  6. George says:

    Heh, I made butter a while back, even mentioned it on here in a way completely irrelevant to the thread in which I posted it. But I just wanted to see if I could do it, and I did! All it took was some whipping cream from the store and the KitchenAid mixer. It is really easy, if you have access to cream.

  7. Joel Heinrich says:

    A picture from the Freiburger Münster in southern Germany near France and Switzerland:

    They show the bread “standard” for the bread sold on the market for the years 1270, 1317, and 1320. Pretty much selfexplaining.

  8. Pascvaks says:

    So much… bits and pieces… to the rear march!

    Big Urban Megalopolises and Vast Social Welfare Systems critically undermine individual initiative. They ONLY get by when economy is going gangbusters. Another Crisis of 1300? LA is toast. Barring a massive earthquake Frisco stands a chance because it’s a port but at a much much reduced population level, same for San Deigo, Seattle, and the major East Coast metro areas centered on seaports too. Urban sprawl will dry up, cities will shrink to their cores, high disease and death rates will decimate urban populations. “Plague” of some kind(s) will take care of Scrooge’s ‘surplus population’.

    Things will shrink in the fashion opposite to the way they grew. Federal service systems will die and give way back to state essential services and state services will fall back to city and county services and those that cannot be performed at the local level will die or be picked up by civic groups, clubs or churches, etc. Kind’a like reverting to Horse and Buggy Days (which we’ve never done).

    The trick is cutting the ‘fluff’ and shifting all our Titanic “systems” into reverse and passing essential services in some reasonable fashion to lower levels. Take the Greeks of the moment as an example of chaos and poor leadership. Greece offers the West another great example of what will happen and how not to do it. Anyone think that given the current chaos in the US over cutting stupid federal programs that are eating us alive, that we will be anymore successful doing it because crops are failing? I don’t think so. Say goodbye America to The Constitution and hello to Big Brother and Martial Law. Sometimes people stay too long fixed on the way things were and fail to see the way things need to go as fast as possible (ie Greenland during the last Little Ice Age) because they’re just to damn boneheaded and think they’re God’s Gift to the World.

    When the crops fail, the government will usually follow. Ask the Chinese and the Greeks and the Italians and the…

  9. Pascvaks says:

    Ref -Joel Heinrich
    A picture from the Freiburger Münster….They show the bread “standard” for the bread sold on the market for the years 1270, 1317, and 1320. Pretty much selfexplaining.

    Help!? Bitte?

  10. gallopingcamel says:

    It is truly remarkable that “Climate Scientists” expect us to believe them rather than historians. Several recent climate optima have been confirmed by archaeologists and historians including the Minoan, Roman and Medieval warm periods. These were times when civilizations grew and prospered.

    Likewise there are well researched cold periods such as the “Dark Ages” and the Little Ice Ages” characterized by the collapse of empires and unbelievable human suffereing.

    There was a recent TV show on the History Channel that I strongly recommend, called “Little Ice Age, Big Chill”.

    I sincerely doubt that humanity can change the global temperature by a significant amount but if we could, it would make more sense to turn the thermostat up rather than down.

    If Al Gore were to recommend that we all emulate him by owning four homes and traveling in a Gulfstream IV I for one would give it my best shot, if it would warm the planet.

  11. Joel Heinrich says:


    Market regulation. Say, a stable boy has the right to three loaves of bread per week. Or, in times of crop failure, the landlord fixes the price of a loaf of bread because he is afraid of revolts (just like in China now). Then you need to have a definition or a standard for your loaf of bread (which today would be in kg or pounds). All loaves have to be at least as big as the ones depicted on the side of the cathedral.
    In 1317 the standard was much smaller then in 1270 because of the abovementioned crop failures. In 1320 it was raised again.
    Essentially the pictures tell you how much bread you get for your silver.

    There were also standards for the unit of a foot and an ell or for bricks and even for a tub:

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    I’ve occasionally thought it would be interesting to go through all the periodic cold catatrophies / warm optimums, and make a listof comparative impacts for each and mitigations. A lot of work, though, so I’ve not done it. As you point out, the “good news” is that we have much more technological “bench” to work with now…


    I’ll add it to my reading list…

    I was amazed when I first found out many people carry a food inventory in the house of about 2 days. Some folks had sugar, coffee, tea and maybe a jug of milk in the fridge (and not much else). Every day they buy any meat and vegetables. No canned goods to speak of (unless needed that day) and litttle to no dry goods.

    Some hurricane went through and power was out for 3 days. News reports had people clammoring for food supplies as they had run out.

    Just amazes me. We two parents from the Great Depression Era, and one of them from a farm where they had to put up supplies for the whole year or have nothing; I was raised with the notion of food storage as part of the annual cycle. Every summer the whole town would can various fruits and vegetables for the rest of the year. (Rural farm towns are like that. Mormon dominated ones even more so… I learned a lot from them…)

    In any cold / wet crop failure, it is THOSE city dwellers who are going to have the worst of it.

    FWIW, I’d figured that, with some work, I could get just enough for the family out of my suburban plot if pushed into it. (Would have to take out the lawn and go with a French Intensive system). This year has me doubting. It has been such a dismal start to the year that so far I’ve harvested a single summer squash and some kale / collards leaves. I could have harvested one handful of greenbeans, but I’m running them to seed. Oh, and we had a bit of mustard greens. The “hot season” plants are just sulking. Only the cold season ones are providing. (Kale, in JUNE, in California? Yup…)

    As of this week we finally got some heat. It looks like the warm season plants have started to grow (at last). My “takeaway” from this? You need to be ready to swap what type of crop on a moments notice. To some extent, the change alone is disruptive. I had radishes bolt without ever making a decent bulb. Why? We were having pronounced 3 week or so temperature cycling cold / warm / cold and they took that as a seasonal shift, so made seeds. So knowing that the “greens” are edible as a “pot herb” lets you still get food out of them. But do most folks know that? So store extra seeds for the inevitable ‘replanting’…

    Short season fast growth types. More “adaptable” types. And types most suited to cooler areas and seasons. That was my ‘takeaway’.

    I even went out and bought some watercress seeds, just in case it gets really wet. ;-)

    @Judy F.

    Yup. Places like Iowa and Indiana, you see field corn for hundrreds of miles. Not much else. California grows most of the table vegetables for the nation. We simply MUST keep transportation systems functional to have enough foods of the the right kinds to meet full nutritional needs. Corn alone is not gonna cut it…

    That point about cooking is, er, one I’d forgotten. It’s so ingrained in me to cook. Started at about 5 years old. Family restaurant. Everyone cooks…. Yet, one of my college buddies had trouble putting peanut butter and jam on sliced bread. Went camping with one guy who had to learn how to burn meat in a pan… (we worked on “timing” later).

    The idea of them looking at a bag of wheat and wondering what to do is, er, disturbing; even if the most probable outcome.

    My daughter is gradually branching out ( salads, variety of sauces, cooked vegetables) but for a couple of years basically could cook “Mac and Cheese” from the package mix and not much else. (Does scrambled eggs too). But can’t make Mac & Cheese from macaroni and cheese… and don’t even think about how to make cheese… (I’ve got a neat book on it, but not done it at home yet).


    Note that in China they had a long series of droughts, now the drought has broken and they are flooding. Historically, there was a drought in China at the start of that 1300 era cycle. It would be interesting to see if it was followed by flood…

    So yes, we are in a “race condition”. On the one hand, technology can mitigate all this. (You can do hydroponics under artificial light from nuclear power with desalinzied water in a desert) on the other hand, our political systems are moving in “exactly wrong” ways.

    Which will win? Typically the political process results in wars that destroy the technical and capital stock. Not good. Unless we can break that cycle, this time will be much worse, as we are much more numerous and much more dependent on technological systems.

    Saw a report that the CBO showed us have Greek levels of debt to GDP in something like 10 to 15 years. Nobody acting to change that….


    Both Geologists and Historians have higher levels of folks in tune with the actual cycles of the planet, and more resistent to the AGW religion. It’s part of why I ‘had issues’ with it (as I love history, and studied some geology). And part of why I keep coming back to those themes. They are much better at predicting “what is to come”.

  13. Hugo M says:

    @Joel Heinrich:

    The famine around 1317 in Freiburg is said to have been a consequence of a crop shortfall due to an epidemic plague of hithereto unknown origin. But the misery must have been widespread and must have continued for a long time, also considerng as symptomatic that in 1348 the Jews have been persecuted as well-poissoners, had been victimized by an organized pogrom in 1349 and finally lost all their right to live in the city 1401. And from a medical point of view it is straighforward to argue that malnutrition must have been the factor (weakened immune response) why the plague turned into an epidemic disaster.

  14. Interesting Connections says:

    This book might be useful:

    Click to access revolt.pdf

  15. pyromancer76 says:

    As part of my research into your post on the lunar cycle (real research will take supercomputer time, I think), I looked at the Sporer Minimum chart from Wikipedia (something won’t let me copy here). For the three Minima of the Little Ice Age, Wolf, Sporer, Maunder), there are three steep slopes of rapidly descending “proportion of carbon-14 in tree rings” (I know, be suspect of tree rings, but this this chart is from an Eddy 1976 paper, I think), “solar activity events recorded in radiocarbon”.

    I eyeballed (very approximate) the dates for the steepest down slopes as 1250-1350, leading to the “bottom” of the Wolf Minimum; 1390-1450, leading to the beginning of the bottom of the Sporer — a long bottom (during which the War of the Roses was fought in England); 1600-1700, the leading edge of the Maunder Minimum. I wondered if the worst events for human societies and agriculture cluster on the downturns, or collect at the bottom? If they collect in any one period of time, are there are significant links with special cycles, e.g., lunar nodal, more-than-usual cosmic rays, all the “wobbles” matching, and so forth.

    E.M., don’t you love all these simple questions your readers toss your way?

    P.S. I liked this quote from McKinnell and Crawford 2007 paper “The 18.6 Lunar Nodal Cycle….” “The LNC also appears over centennial-scales in proxy temperatures along western North America.” It might have appeared in your post on this subject.

  16. dearieme says:

    “Most of what is Belgium and Northern France were being populated by folks who would come into an area, burn down a section of forest..”: are you sure? In Britain broadleaved woodland is unburnable – is it easily burnt in our neighbours, or is it pine forest that you have in mind?

  17. GregO says:

    Here’s a good read about the terrible times in Europe in the 14th century:

  18. gallopingcamel says:

    Your comments on food storage resonate with me. In our household we used to store sides of beef, whole pigs, lambs, chickens plus all kinds of veggies in several top loader freezers. Then an ice storm knocked out our electricity for five days; while no food was spoiled (I had access to liquid nitrogen from my laboratory) it made me rethink my disaster strategy.

    We installed a small emergency generator (5 kVA peak) with the main purpose of running our well, our TV and a few lights. We recognised that in serious emergency we would only be able to run it intermittently so the freezers had to go.

    We buy our food daily for immediate consumption. When things go wrong we have an extensive larder with at least 500 pounds of food that requires no refrigeration. Mostly canned goods and at least one 50 kg sack of Basmati rice. We have two propane cylinders for emergency cooking and sterilising water.

    Taking this thinking to national level one should remember Hammurabi:

    One of his achievements was the building of granaries so that his people would have food during the “lean years”. If our leaders were as enlightened as Hammurabi they would forget about “Carbon Sequestration” based on turning CO2 into rocks and promote the idea of storing grain in case we have another 1815 (the year without a summer).

  19. @pyromancer76:

    I wouldn’t expect the events to “collect on the bottom” per se, as the system wouldn’t really know where the bottom was. At some point on the slope, things would have fallen far enough to start accelerating bad effects.

    Part of the dendrochronology record problems in recent times has been the apparent exchange of growth for density due to high CO2, the “decline” made famous by Mann and company. The isotope records you refer to should have a modern counterpart in the tree rings of the most recent decades; perhaps they don’t really need to “age” to be of value. It would be interesting to see how those pan out — though I’d hardly trust the current crop.

    The current crop of famous climate scientists, that is. The trees are just doing what they’re supposed to do.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  20. ROM says:

    Booty Meteorological Information Source > Weather in history.

    4000 years of British weather and history put together by a meteorologist plus numerous reference sources.

    Some real fascinating stuff on weather and it’s effects upon historical events on this site

  21. Ecotretas says:

    I’m looking into Portuguese history, into the MWP, and am finding some interesting things… I’m not an historian, but I’m having fun!

    We should concentrate definitely in the MWP. And old books give some interesting thoughts, since they were not yet contaminated…

    LIA is also very interesting. I would like to contact R. de Haan, directly. If you can contact me, I would appreciate it! My email is on the top left of my blog:


  22. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ve added what I think is the “graph in question” to the posting.

    I find it very facinating (once you get past which direction time runs) as it clearly shows a strong C14 vs known historic temperatures correlation. AND is shows “now” as very high C14. That sure makes it look like CO2 isn’t part of the picture…

    (BTW, WordPress doesn’t like SVG file types, so you need to go to the bottom of the link and pick off one of the PNG or JPG types, if present, and use them in WordPress…

    at the bottom:

    Wny? Don’t ask why… )

    OK, the “standard model” is that cosmic rays hit the N14 in the air and make C14 out of it. One would expect, then, that more cosmic rays make more C14. We know that LESS solar activity lets in more cosmic rays AND we know that during the various minima, sunspots (and thus solar activity) were lower.

    One ‘tricky bit’, the C14 content is on an inverted scale in the graph. So a higher line is lower C14.

    My reading of that graph is pretty simple: Sun goes quiet, we get more cosmic rays, and it more C14, and it gets cold. Fast.

    Lately, the sun has been very active, low cosmic rays, low C14, warm…. until this latest solar cycle when things have “fallen off a cliff”. So it ought to be getting very cold, very fast. (And it sure looks like it is…)

    I do note that, per the Wiki on C-14, nobody knows what the present rate of production actually is:

    As of 2008, the rate of carbon-14 production was not known – while the reaction can be modelled or the current concentrations and the global carbon budget can be used to backtrack, attempts to measure production had not agreed with these models. Production rates vary because of changes to the cosmic ray flux incident, such as supernovae, and due to variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. The latter can create significant variations in carbon-14 production rates, although the changes of the carbon cycle can make these effects difficult to tease out.

    Oh, and the modelled values don’t match measured values… and the earth’s mag field gets involved…

    So much for “settled science”. We can’t even make a decent measure of the present status of a key coincidental indicator…

    To me, it “eyeball matches” the solar cycles from Rhodes Fairbridge and Charvatova, but one really ought to get someone like Geoff Sharp to peg those dates:

    has a recent time and future prediction chart:

    While this graph goes a bit further back in time:

    Vukscvic also has a graph that I think matches:

    And he has one that goes futher back in time, but I can’t find the link right now…

    This one only moves it back another 50 years:

    At any rate, it looks like the major driver is the sun, the “why” is likely some kind of “stirring” of the sun by the orbital mechanics; and there may be some slightly complicated bits that are either “cyclical for unknown reasons” and just have a resonant frequency; or that have some “odd intereactions” like the AM graphs from

    Or, in short: “The sun did it” and we are not sure how.

    Generally speaking, the “cold periods” cluster on mayhem and crop failures. The “warm periods” cluster on stable peaceful advance of society. When it gets cold and folks are starving, they have wars and make it worse. When folks are warm and well fed, the go to the beach, or sleep…

    Thus the cold periods were classically called “Pessimums” and the warm periods were called “Optimums”… This has been known for a long while (though Wiki has tried to erase that history and the terms themselves).

    While it would be interesting to lay out human history on that timeline and on that C14 graph, that will need to wait for “another day” as it’s late, and I’m getting fuzzy…

    OOOhhh… here’s a nice one:

    Yes, that’s 11,000 years of C14 and angular momentum data…

  23. pyromancer76 says:

    Yes, “we all” give you some great “fit here” assignments. Thanks for all detail to plow through. This puzzle of the ocean, sun, moon and planets, solar system, our path within/through the Milky Way, its path through the universe and the multitude of effects on Earth and our climate is beautifully awesome and painfully mind-boggling all at the same time. Since humans were as intelligent tens of thousands of years ago, no wonder the stone henges and astrology lore (when accurate) to put experience into intergenerational knowledge; the efforts must have come from a long time before humans could make lasting-to-the-present marks (large stones, e.g.,). I hope this current vast effort to understand, partly due to new powers, satellites and supercomputing power and partly due to tryannical leanings of AGWers, will give some unification to the various partially-right or almost-accurate theories.

    I refer an amazing essay by physicist Lubos Motl to you re “unification”. I was moved by it and by Motl’s efforts not only to think through development of scientific understandings-to-“certainty”, but his ability to articulate the paths in accessible language. Your two blogs share a kinship in ability to inquire and communicate.

    Your reference, “the nice one”, seems to be pulling together a great amount of research for use in “unification”. In reading it, I found a comment that espresses my wishes:

    15.By Andy R. “Geoff, interesting stuff. I am not a scientist, rather an over the hill engineer but with a reasonable grasp of (old school) maths/physics, please allow me to make some comments/ ask questions

    “It seems to me to tighten up your graphs further you will inevitably end up requiring a super accurate model of the solar system. i.e a model that accurately takes into account ALL planetary orbital paths/interactions and masses/dimensions.

    “How accurate are current sources of information anyway?

    “Do other solar bodies e.g. planetary moons, the asteroid belt even passing comets have some small but significant contribution? Planets/moons themselves rotate on axes that dont align in the solar plane and precess, would that have any effect?

    I presume you are basing your theories on gravitational calculations, however as sunspots are also a geomagnetic phenomem, might planetary geomagnetics also have some input – bearing in mind some planets have really wierd magnetic geometry.”

    One last thought. Even though,this might seem way too broad a brush, it seems that at this time any theory that does not include the Solar System passage through Milky Way/Universe (Svensmark) for some aspect of Grand Minimum/Maximum is omitting important information. (I am very impressed with “Chilling Stars”; know the theory is not proven yet.) Perhaps this aspect might clear up some of Geof Sharp’s graphs. In addition, it also seems that without close and detailed “low cloud” (the kind that cover the oceans in particular) research, “unification” cannot be reached.

    I am more grateful than I can say for your thoughtful responses to everyone. What a conversation, actually conversations, take place on Chiefio!

  24. Pascvaks says:

    Ref – Hugo M on 23 June 2011 at 5:31 pm
    “The famine around 1317 in Freiburg is said to have been…”

    When things get ruff the Bigs always take out their frustrations on the Littles. It never pays to be in the minority during bad times. And, as time goes bye, it frequently doesn’t make too much difference being in the majority if some folks in that group don’t like how much you weigh, or the color of your eyes, or.. or… whatever. When life gets bad it’s usually a good idea to make like a tree and leave (aka- going where people aren’t;-).

  25. As you suggest, it’s not “minority” that’s the issue, it is power. A majority can be weak, and often is. And a well-off minority is often the place to be. We tend to use “minority” in a US or European way, for people who are often in the majority in their own lands.

    Robert Heinlein’s character Lazarus Long said it well, in three quotes from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”:

    Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    This is known as “bad luck”.
    In a mature society, “civil servant” is semantically equal to “civil master”.
    When a place gets crowded enough to require ID’s, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.

    We’ve yet to realize that last bit — and it’s interesting how much the previous two quotes are connected to that lack.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  26. Pingback: TWAWKI » Let them eat frozen cake!

  27. West Houston says:

    Listening to the tone of these comments and the inexperience admitted and regretted by sophisticated urbanites, I have one (perhaps brilliant) entrepreneurial inspiration.

    Amish Boot Camp! It could be HUGE!

  28. Pingback: No time to write, eat links/iPads for now « The end of civilization

  29. Geoff Sharp says:

    Hi Chiefio, an interesting article.

    The amount of solar downturn in my opinion will determine the severity of the cooling which I think will not be as bad as the Wolf Minimum. If we look back over Carl’s AM graph the LIA grand minima all fall into line once we understand how the “disruption” quantification works. The Landscheidt Minimum looks to be on track and if so should provide a small short downturn in solar output of less disruption than the Dalton Minimum. I would expect a 1 deg C cooling over 30 years.

    I wrote an article recently that may assist in understanding the two basic principles in play.

  30. pyromancer76 says:

    Two references if you ever have time to “dig here” again. I keep a file of large volcano eruptions by centuries and add to them every time I find a new reference. Was rereading your “Intermediate Period Half Bond Events” and found a comment from Malaga View: “Shuffle forward 745 years [from 535 AD] and we encounter a VEI 6 at Quilotoa in the [Peruvian] Andes in 1280 AD…but given its location lets say it was a VEI 7.” Doing a Bing [Google too leftist-warmist-greenist for me] search I found an abstract of article by Schneider, Ammann, Otto-Bliesner, and Kaufman from 2009, “Climate response to large, high-latitude and low-latitude volcanic eruptions in the Community Climate System Model”.

    At present I have no file for Vols 13th C, but this quote woke me. “The second half of the 13th century was likely the most volcanically perturbed half-century of the last 2000 years, although none of the major 13th C eruptions have been clearly attributed to specific vlcanoes. This time was in general a time of transition from the relatively warm Medieval period to the colder Little Ice Age….short-term…significant cooling over the continents in summer and cooling over regions of increased sea-ice concentration in NH winter….significant reductions in global precipitation, especially in the summer monsoon regions….positive feedbacks associated with ice and snow cover could lead to long-term climate cooling in the Arctic.”

    Very interesting….if 1/2 Bond events are ushered in by “greatly” increased volcanic activity. Someone else, George maybe, suggested a 10-year time lag from large subduction events to volcanic activity. We’ve had a few of those lately!

    Happy new life in Florida.

  31. George says:

    The thing we have going on here is that we have had several major subduction quake events in the past several years. We had the quake in Indonesia (actually a pair of them), we had a quake in Haiti, Japan, and Chile. Each of these events injected more crust into the mantle and increased the spin rate of Earth a little.

    We have had more major megathrust subduction zone quakes in the past 6 years than I remember over the previous 40.

  32. E.M.Smith says:

    @Wes Houston:

    I think you have given me a name for my “ranchette” (whenever I manage to buy one ;-)

    @Geoff Sharp:

    I can only hope you are correct. One of my “concerns” about Bond Events is that they are defined in a somewhat “loose” way. They are given a periodicity but little magnitude and with fairly wide error bars on the periods. This leaves me thinking that there is more likely a more complex “cycle” than a simple sine wave and that the somewhat variable period and depth are the result if interacting cycles of other periods. All of which fits the”planets did it” thesis.

    So I’m hoping that it’s “cool not cold”…

    but… “Hope is not a strategy. -E.M.Smith”…


    Going to be ‘bi-coastal’ for a year or so. I’m now a resident of Florida (job, car reg, residence, etc.) but spouse is still in California (with the other residence that is ‘in transition’ to my kids…). This will be the status until I can transition from a ‘contract’ to a ‘full time job’… or save enough money to buy that Ranch-ettte and open my Amish Boot Camp ;-)

    The points on 1280 AD are, er, “a bit of a worry”… and I *will* be doing a ‘Dig Here’ on it again as time permits. At present I have a new job starting Monday and prep work for that (plus setting up household here – I arrived with 4 shirts, 2 pants, some socks and sandals… Oh, and a swimming suit and undies…) so I’ve been doing a bit of a ‘scramble’ to get prepared… then the car had a dead battery day 4 or so and then the clutch died this last week… (Out of the shop now, so I have wheels again ;-) So I’ve been a bit “dig” challenged the last couple of weeks.

    I figure about a week from now I’ll be more settled and can give it some attention. Is your file of ‘events’ on line or available? It might be nice to make a list of known events for ‘cycle hunting’…

    I don’t know if the volcanic action is driven by planets, or just a periodic thing all on it’s own, or what; but it’s pretty clear that the ‘warm times’ are times of low volcanic action and that the ‘minima’ are all mixed events with both solar and volcanic changes. But “why” is quite opaque…


    When I was about 5 to 8 years old I was fascinated by volcanoes. There were several that had been active “recently” then (my Dad told me stories of the volcano in Italy during W.W. II and the local ‘old folks’ talked about Lassen and the 1914 eruption) and I began to wait. By the time I was getting out of college and could go to Hawaii, it had stopped erupting. Got married and honeymoon in Hawaii – still no eruptions. Time passes…

    Now we’ve got Hawaii erupting almost continuously for many years and things all over the planet starting to rumble and burp. Then, as you noted, a gaggle of giant subduction events are set off. Set your clock, a few years hence we start getting a load more volcanoes…

    At any rate, after about 1/2 Century of waiting, I’m torn between a desire to finally see an active volcano mid-eruption, and the fact that if we ARE getting a load of activity, it’s going to be a bad day in cold town…

    At any rate, the evidence is piling up, and I suspect that pretty soon the evidence will be exploding all over the place, for a volcano cycle tied to cold excursions…

  33. George says:

    If you consider the number of volcanoes in the Southwestern US that have erupted in the past 1000 years, it seems odd that we have not seen one of them erupt in the past 200 years or so since the Spanish explorers arrived in the area. You would think that over 20% of the time span, you would see 20% of them erupt if they were evenly distributed (200 years being 20% of 1000 years) so this would seem to more strongly indicate that the activity is bunched up.

  34. E.M.Smith says:


    good point… 1000 years it geologically short though. Wonder if there is a pattern in the old lava beds…

  35. George says:

    I think the Inyo Craters erupted about 600 years ago. Panguitch Lake erupted about 900 years ago. The vocano in Mono Lake erupted, it is speculated, sometime about the time explorers came to the region. Sunset Crater erupted within the past 1000 years. There are more than 600 cinder cones in the San Francisco Volcanic Field and the activity moves East over time so the next eruption is likely to be East of Sunset Crater. There are some lava beds in Southern California that are fairly recent. Ice Springs lava flows in Utah about about 660 years old. So it seems that the period from about 900 years ago to about 600 years ago was pretty active in the Southwest.

  36. George says:

    Weird, my previous comment flew into the mod bucket. Anyway, I also meant to mention the Black Rock Desert Volcanic Field in Millard County, Utah (not to be confused with the other Black Rock Desert in Nevada) which erupted between AD1140-1440.

  37. E.M.Smith says:


    No idea why it got ‘stickage’. Nothing I did, your name and IP didn’t change. No “forbidden words” that I can see. Either wordpress had a hiccough or it fit one of their “magic rules” that even blog operators do not get to see or change…

    I note that the time period, 600 to 900 years ago, is nicely bracketing a 1/2 Bond Event period of 750 years… which would imply that right about now….

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