Ahab, California, Drought and Me

Every so often there are a few things rattling around inside the mind that have spent a long time being strangers to each other, then find out there are First Cousins. They sit down and swap stories of the same family, but from different points of view. Then one of them takes out the long lost family album…

I knew the story of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. (Who in the west doesn’t? It being nearly iconic in our culture now; even showing up as a metaphor in a Start Trek movie).

http://www.online-literature.com/melville/mobydick/ (Including an audio book version)

I’ve been to Sutter’s Fort more times than I can count and every school kid in California has to learn about it (and that bit of history). Usually in about 4th grade along with the Missions history.

I knew that California had been Spanish, that the Mexicans had taken it (for about 25 years) and largely let things run down (or actively broke down and sold off the Mission properties).

And I was very aware that California is a land of alternating drought and floods, rather like Australia in that, and with some droughts lasting long and being very dry.

I also knew that the Russians had been here; but mysteriously packed up and left. Selling out for a promise of some wheat. While the Americans came early, then didn’t do much of anything until gold was found. Ignoring one of the most beautiful and productive places on the planet seemed a bit “odd”, but I’d not ‘connected the dots’…

So just why DID all the various folks who had thought of laying claim to California largely not bother? We’ve been under the flags of Britain, Mexico, Spain (both the Royal Standard and the Cross of Burgundy), Russia (several), Argentina, Republic of California, United States of America, and at various times some French and Swiss folks thought of claiming the place. Yet not much happened until Sutter found Gold.

Why?

I’d wondered a little about ‘why’ but had usually just assumed “folks were probably busy with all the other land in the midwest, or something.” I’ve learned that the “or something” usually means I ought to examine my assumptions… but life doesn’t give enough time to examine them all. So some sit on the shelf.

Every so often a happy accident answers one of the “why?” bits on the shelf… Patience rewarded, sloth scores one point.

Ahab

There was an early explorer of the Pacific Coast (and a lot of other places). We got about 20 seconds on him in some grammar school year. Enough that I recognized the name when I saw it this time; but not enough to remember much else.

Lt. Charles Wilkes.

Turns out that he likely served as the model for Ahab in some ways.

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5232

Charles Wilkes begins first American survey of Puget Sound on May 11, 1841.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5232 :

On May 11, 1841, the U.S. Navy ships Vincennes and Porpoise, commanded by Lt. Charles Wilkes (1798-1877), drop anchor in southern Puget Sound, near the mouth of Sequalitchew Creek and the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Nisqually. Wilkes’ crew proceeds to chart Puget Sound and name numerous landmarks, including Elliott Bay. This United States Exploring Expedition marks America’s first formal entry into Puget Sound waters.

Wilkes was an ambitious and autocratic officer who took command of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1838 with the aim of circumnavigating the globe and charting Antarctica and the Pacific Coast of North America. By the time he returned to Norfolk, Virginia, in 1842, his fleet of six ships had dwindled to two.
[…]
Upon his return to the East Coast, word of Wilkes’ harsh discipline and personal arrogance earned him public rebuke and inspired Herman Melville’s most famous character, Captain Ahab.
Only 100 copies of the expedition report were published, but they helped to establish Oregon and Puget Sound as new prizes for America’s manifest destiny.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Wilkes

Despite his accomplishments, Wilkes acquired a reputation as sometimes arrogant and capricious. This may have been partly due to his open conflict with Gideon Welles, who was the Secretary of the Navy. Secretary Welles recommended that Wilkes had been too old to receive the rank of commodore under the act then governing promotions. Wilkes wrote a scathing letter to Welles in response. This controversy ended in his court-martial in 1864. He was found guilty of disobedience of orders, insubordination, and other specifications. He was sentenced to public reprimand and suspension for three years. However, President Lincoln reduced the suspension to one year and the balance of charges were dropped. On July 25, 1866, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral on the retired list.
[…]
Some historians speculate that Wilkes’ obsessive behavior and harsh code of shipboard discipline shaped Herman Melville’s characterization of Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick. Such speculation is not mentioned in the U.S. Naval historical archives.

In addition to his contribution to U.S. Naval history and scientific study in his official Narrative of the Exploration Squadron (6 volumes), Wilkes wrote his autobiography.

Wilkes died in Washington, D. C. on February 8, 1877 at the rank of Rear Admiral. In August 1909, the United States moved his remains to Arlington National Cemetery. His gravestone says “he discovered the Ant-arctic continent”.

Interesting fellow… So court martialed twice(!) and retires as an Admiral. Hmmm….

My kind of guy ;-)

So what reminded me of this guy who explored a lot of the Pacific Coast and per his gravestone “discovered the Ant-arctic continent”?

The Drought of 1841

I’d been looking at some of the links posted by Ulric Lyons h/t and got to thinking. If 1837ish was such a bad crop failure year in China and Europe, what was known about California during that Solar Minimum time? What was in store for ME if things repeated here?

That lead to an interesting (if somewhat short) article:

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20090222/OPINION/902221050

How a drought changed California?

Hmmm…. As we’ve been a mite dry this year, that “might matter”…

How a drought year changed the course of California history
By GAYE LeBARON
PRESS DEMOCRAT COLUMIST

Several years before the Mexican War, before the discovery of gold, before California became a state, Lt. Charles Wilkes of the United States Navy, one of the more interesting characters in the dramas of early California, sailed into San Francisco Bay to assess the prospects of the Pacific Coast for the U.S. government.

He was astonishingly unimpressed.

There was no land suitable for agriculture anywhere around the pueblo of Sonoma, he wrote in his report. And the Sacramento Valley was no more than a “barren wasteland.”

Wilkes, you see, had the bad luck to arrive in California in the year 1841, which was a drought year in this area of such significant proportions as to change the course of history.

I raise this issue now because it looks like the course of history may wobble, or at least bend a bit, in subsequent months. We’ve had rain, but the experts tell us that 2009, like 1841 and a dozen or more years since, will be recorded as another drought year.

It was also a pivotal year for Mexican California, with not only the United States but France, Great Britain and the last of the Russian occupiers poking around, taking notes to help their governments decide whether — or when — to make their move.

So Wilkes shows up, looks around, and pronounces the place pretty crummy and not worth the effort.

About the same time the Russians sell out to Sutter (taking a promissory note on his fort) and leave. Sutter has a few years of crop failure (so can’t deliver the contracted payment that was a boat load of wheat). Yet the Russians don’t even bother trying to collect the debt. My guess is they figures “Hell, if even the wheat isn’t growing, what’s the point? Want a fort in the middle of nowhere with no water and no wheat?”.

So it really does look like that drought had a profound effect on things. On the one hand, it got the Russians to leave. I’d always wondered why they didn’t see the potential of the place. On the other hand, they had the Americans stay out (so the Mexicans could take over for their few years). Perhaps we could have avoided the whole history of war with Mexico over California but for that? Though it likely would have caused Spain to want to hang on to their part and been less willing to just say “oh, never mind” to Mexico.

Still, it is a hinge point of history; and the drought had folks “staying away in droves” until gold was found and the ’49ers put their stamp on the place.

The Journal

One source said that 100 copies of the journal were printed. In prior times one would be lucky to find a copy on some musty library shelf under lock and key on the other side of the continent. Now? Well, it’s on line… A VERY large book (seems he liked to write… and name things…) so I did a key word search on California. It starts on page 301:

http://www.archive.org/stream/narrativeofunite00wilkrich#page/301/mode/1up/search/california

A fascinating read.

Here he is talking about places being worthless and dead empty that are now worth $Billions and with about 4 Million people just in the San Francisco Bay Area. Just to look at ‘places I know’ through the eyes of someone seeing them pristine (or nearly so) is a startling contrast.

The text is not amenable to ‘cut / paste’, so I’m going to retype a few passages. But please, do read some of it. The effect is remarkable.

Also of note: Some things never change! One of his laments is about the laid back attitude of Californios. Well duh!

If you could make a decent living doing ‘not much’ while having a lot of beach and siesta time, would you see the advantage to working on a ship headed to the AntArctic? At one point he comments with a bit of derision about the tendency for the place to be populated with deserters from all manner of ships from all countries; and that any ship that comes tends to lose a few crew. Ok, I have my choice of Ahab or “California Dreaming”? That’s a clear “no brainer” ;-)

The Vincennes arrived at San Francisco on the 14th of August, 1841, and anchored off Yerba Buena. As soon as the ship was anchored, an officer was dispatched on shore to call upon the authorities; but none of any description were to be found. The only magistrate, an alcalde, was absent. The frequency of revolutions in this country had caused a great change since the visit of Captain Beechey.
[…]
On approaching the neighborhood of San Francisco, the country has by no means an inviting aspect. To the north it rises in a lofty range, whose highest point is known as the Table Hill, and forms the iron-bound coast from Punto de los Rayes to the mouth of the harbor.

To the south, there is an extended sandy beach, behind which rises the sandy hills of San Bruno, to a moderate height. There are no symptoms of cultivation, nor is the land on either side fit for it; for in the former direction is is mountainous, in the latter sandy, and in both barren.

In that era, the bay was San Francisco and the city that is now called San Francisco was named Yerba Buena.

Arriving in the summer in a drought year, the place would be fairly barren and brown. California is green in winter, brown in summer.

He then goes on to list the various buildings and such in Yerba Buena:

The town, as is stated, is not calculated to produce a favorable impression on a stranger. The buildings may be counted and consists of a large frame building, occupied by the agent of the Hudson Bay Company, a store, kept by Mr. Spears, an American, a billiard-room and bar, a poop cabin of a ship set up as a dwelling by Captain Hinckley, a blacksmith’s shop, and some outbuildings. These, though few in number, are also far between. With these I must not forget to enumerate an old dilapidated adobe building, which has a conspicuous position on top of the hill overlooking the anchorage. When we add to this the sterile soil and hills of bare rock, it will be seen that Yerba Buena and the country around it are any thing but beautiful. This description holds good when the tide is high, but at low water it has for a foreground an extensive mud flat, which does not add to the beauty of the view.

After passing through the entrance we were scarcely able to distinguish the presidio; and had it not been for the solitary flag-staff, we could not have ascertained it’s situation. From this staff; no flag floated; the building was deserted, the walls had fallen to decay, the guns were dismounted, and everything around it lay in quiet. We were not even saluted by the stentorian lungs of some soldier, so common in Spanish places, even after all political power as well as military and civil rule has fled. I afterward learned that the Presidio was still a garrison in name, and that it had not been wholly abandoned; but the remnant of the troops stationed there consisted of no more than an officer and one soldier. At Yerba Buena there was a similar absence of all authority.

At the time of our visit, the country all together presented a singular appearance. Instead of a lively green hue, it had generally a tint of a light straw-colour, showing an extreme want of moisture. The drought had continued for 11 months; the cattle were dying the the fields; and the first view of California was not calculated to make a favourable impression either of its beauty or fertility.

He does go on to comment favorably on places like Monterey and to state that Sacramento looks productive. He notes that the coastal areas can be colder in summer than in winter (due to onshore winds and fog) and is not all negative. But you get the sense of it. That the place is largely empty, anyone who wanted it can take it, but why bother?…

He was not fond of California wine (which was already being produced). Generally commenting on the amount of wealth that could be had if the locals were to get off their bottoms and do something…

The cultivation of the grape increases yearly, but is not sufficient for the supply of the country; as large quantities of foreign wines and liquors are imported which pay an enormous duty; and although California may not boast of its dense population, every intelligent person I met with agreed that it consumed more spirits in proportion than any other part of the world.

I guess some things never change ;-)

The salmon fishery, if attended to, would be a source of considerable profit, yet I was told that the Californians never seemed disposed to attempt to take them. The general opinion is, that they are too indolent to bestir themselves. and they naturally choose the employment which gives them the least trouble. Above everything, the rearing of cattle requires the least labour in this country, for it is only necessary to provide keepers and have their cattle marked.
[…]
As respects trade, it may be said that there is scarcely any, for it is so interrupted, and so much under the influence of the governor and the officers of the customs, that those attempting to carry on any under the forms common elsewhere, would probably find it a losing business. Foreigners, however, contrive to evade this by keeping their vessels at anchor and selling a large portion of their cargoes from on board. Great partiality is shown to those of them who have a full understanding with his excellency the governor; and from what I was given to understand, if this be not secured, the traders are liable to extractions and vexations without number.

Yup. Sounds like California Traditions have been around forever. “Amazon” or “Ship board” both looking to avoid “extractions and vexations without number”…

Talking about when they had reached Sacramento ( New Helvetia ):

On the 25th, the boats left New Helvetia. It was discovered previous to departing that 4 men had deserted from their party. This is a common circumstance in this port, and very few vessels visit it without losing some portion of their crews. The dissolute habits of the people form such strong temptations for sailors, that few can resist them.

OK, so you come to California. It is warm. The folks are mostly having a siesta. You’ve got a mix of Spanish, Mexican, Indian, American, British, and a few Swiss and German and whatever. They don’t care much who is from where. They are having a party, with more “spirits” than anyone else; and don’t bother with salmon ’cause they have beef on the BBQ to excess… And their morals are ‘dissolute’ so a sailor is not likely to wake up alone the next day.

That, or Capt. Ahab… Decisions decisions…

Yup, some things about California never do change ;-)

In Conclusion

Those notes will likely suck down several days worth of time in the coming weeks. How long will elapse depends on how much Q.C. assessment I need to do on the local grape products and barley malt production… and how dissolute I’m feeling. Hey, have to keep up the traditions! I’ve got a hundred and fifty years, at least, of history riding on my shoulders!

At the same time, it does look like we get a pretty strong drought when a grand minimum solar configuration is going on. OK, so I can put off fixing the roof for another year ;-)

But for a strong drought and a solar sleepy time, we might have had a Russian Czar hanging on to the north half of California and on up into Oregon / Washington / Alaska; and a Spain that thought it worth the effort to keep Mexico and California (and perhaps all of the Desert Southwest?) as part of their turf.

Instead we had some wars and ‘tough times’ back in the Crown Europe areas, dumping some dry dusty places with indolent people, and the USA deciding to leave it alone too. Damn, if only Sutter had not found that gold… We’d have a California that didn’t care much what the rest of the world did, that spends more time on parties than on work, and that didn’t care who shacked up with whom as long as they both liked the idea. A California with loads of salmon and beef, prepared in all ways possible from Mexican to Swiss… washed down with wine and beer… and a party on the beach every weekend.

Oh, wait! We do… Guess it doesn’t really matter what flag flies over the place. We’re just going to do what we do… Sun, song, BBQ and drink, dissolute and happy…

Captain: “Don’t you know there is a drought!”

Sailor: “Right Sir! No water to drink! Wine then…”

;-)

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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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16 Responses to Ahab, California, Drought and Me

  1. vukcevic says:

    On the major US droughts
    If this summer in the US climate is considered not to be ‘normal’ then most likely it is not caused by CO2 concentration, since there is not much abnormal about CO2 this year compared to the last or one before. Instead this summer should be compared to 1934 and 1953/54.
    This map shows

    California current appears to be ‘much cooler’ than normal (less evaporation), and by the ocean current loop’s appearance that was the case for some time.
    Less evaporation in the west Pacific means less rain in the US mid-west
    One reason why that could happen most likely is the turn over in the Kuroshio-Oyashio currents system. These current systems have been temporarily disturbed by tectonic movements of Honshu in March of 2011 (M9 earthquake and many subsequent strong aftershocks), the powerful tsunami causing break in the thermohaline layering.
    Wikipedia’s list of the Japan’s M8+ earthquakes
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Japan
    01 September 1, 1923 M8.3
    March 2, 1933 M8.4 Major drought 1934
    December 20, 1946 M8.1
    March 4, 1952 M8.1 Major drought 1953-4
    May 16, 1968 M8.2
    September 25, 2003 M8.3
    March 11, 2011 M9.0 Major drought 2012

    Japan’s major earthquake in month of March could have a high probability of causing major drought in the USA (3 of 7 and all in March). Current takes one year to reach Canada and few more months down to California coinciding with the time when a strong evaporation is needed to provide summer rains across the mid-west.
    Two September quakes causing Kuroshio current’s turn-over would reach California 15 months later, which is mid-winter, so by the summer effect may peter out, causing only a minor drought.

  2. Pascvaks says:

    Another little relic of the past is worth a casual look-see, or re-look, as the case may be: “Two Years Before The Mast”, Richard Henry Dana Jr., Cruise of the Brig Pilgrim from Boston to California and of the Ship Alert from California to Boston, August 15 1834 – September 20, 1836 (arrived Santa Barbara January 13, 1835, left San Diego May 8, 1836). If the world is serious about reducing Manmade Global Warming (which it never was or will be;-) we need to only return to the days of sail and horse power, no bout a’doubt it!;-)

  3. Judy F. says:

    My ancestors arrived in California as part of the Mormon Battalion, in 1847 if I remember correctly. They must have liked what they saw because they bought land, and farmed in Southern California, and my brother still farms. My grandfather and Dad talked about being able to boat or canoe in the rivers, that now are just a cement memory.

    It wasn’t long after the drought that there were massive floods, in all of California. The Sacramento flood of 1852 http://www3.gendisasters.com/california/5069/sacramento-ca-area-flood%2C-mar-1852 and the flood of 1861/62. http://www.nytimes.com/1862/01/21/news/the-great-flood-in-california-great-destruction-of-property-damage-10000000.html

    And then I found this article that I hadn’t seen, because I hadn’t started reading WUWT yet when it was written: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/17/after-the-noachian-floods-in-1861-california-experienced-a-punishing-drought/

    From my own personal experience, the winter of 1968/69 was a real wet winter. I remember digging fenceposts for a sheep pen and hitting standing water at 6 inches. We set the fenceposts and tamped in that adobe soil and I bet those fence posts haven’t moved yet.

    Kind of makes a person think there might be a cycle to these things. :)

  4. Another Ian says:

    E.M.

    O/T a bit

    I’ve wondered if Ahab might be an acronym for a description of a bad bull – “all horns and balls”

  5. R. de Haan says:

    Our civilization basically floats on carbon fuels that allow humanity to prosper even in places that were inhabitable one century ago. Restrict the use of carbon fuels and our civilization dies.

  6. adolfogiurfa says:

    @R.de Haan: That shows you how “intelligent and cool” are those green fundamentalists.
    Really everything good is CARBON, so let us join the Church of the Holy Carbon!

  7. philjourdan says:

    Russians apparently are slow to learn. After abandoning California, and then finding they had just sold a gold mine for a paper and a promise, they turn around and do the same thing in Alaska!

    Fascinating reading. I was fortunate (unfortunate?) to be schooled in California where I learned that the earth was created in the 19th century. I had a lot of unlearning to do when I left the state.

  8. R. de Haan says:

    adolfogiurfa says:
    21 August 2012 at 12:56 pm
    “@R.de Haan: That shows you how “intelligent and cool” are those green fundamentalists.
    Really everything good is CARBON, so let us join the Church of the Holy Carbon!”

    A church is a place to practice religion.
    The last thing we need is to put the realities of carbon onto a pedetal of religion.

    Just a matter of opinion of course but that’s how i think about it.

  9. Pascvaks says:

    Religion and Science are actually one and the same thing. When one assends the other falls, and versa vicea. Both seek to answer the most basic and fundamental questions of human existance: “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “Is this all there is?”, and the one fundamental human drive: “To join with the Creator.”

    Be patient fellow cavemen, we have far to go; indeed, we haven’t even started yet –not when you look at how far we’ve come and how far we have to go:-)

  10. R. de Haan says:

    Las Vegas to date is the best example how human ingenuity and carbon fuels turned a desert into a boom town. The religion telling us this is all wrong will destroy our civilization in a shorter period of time than it took to build it. We better declare war on this religion before it is going to kill us.
    Patience dear Pascvaks is not the right attitude to fence off this frontal attack at our civilization.

  11. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Pascvaks: Religion and Science are actually one and the same thing
    Of course!, Religion (lat: Re: again, Ligare: unite) . We have lost contact with real knowledge which involve us as a key part of reality; we have lost the meaning of symbols, which we take as ideas not related with anything while they are actually the blueprints of reality.
    Truth and meaning is everywhere and it has been out there really from old. Laws of nature are simple but….just imagine living in a big, big body, where we are a bit naive and innocent cells and just fulfilling our duties, driven by simple ethical principles taught and transmitted to us through a healthy inheritance from our parents and ancestor….but there it comes a group of cells, wishing to dominate the entire cosmos, to control, to have power, to be equal if possible to those angelic cells who, associated in the brain, are “immortal” (they live more than 75 years, while common cells live only 24 hours); they believe themseves much more intelligent and “cool” than we, common and “stupid” cells like us: They want a “Novus Ordo Seclorum”, they want us not to respect and follow the universal order and be, instead, their slaves and thus be part of a giant tumor which they call “globalization”….
    We, simple commoners, having inherited the “common sense” instinct from our beloved parents, know that it will end very, but very, very, bad, as the “world”, the body we live in, will for sure die if those anarchists succeed.

  12. Power Grab says:

    Ah so. The AGW religion is a cancer. Hmmm…sounds very plausible. Didn’t Otto Warburg earn his Nobel by observing that cancer cells don’t get enough energy using normal methods, so they resort to less efficient methods? I have read that cancer victims die not so much from the cancer itself as from cachexia.

    Likewise, the Church of AGW doesn’t get as much energy (i.e., power) as it desires, so it uses less-efficient, more-consumptive methods to end up an amount that is much lower than we non-AGWers get using “normal” methods (e.g., so-called fossil fuels).

  13. Graeme No.3 says:

    If you are trying to tie drought in California to the rest of the World (even if a lot of people in Cal. think that it is a myth) you should look at exxxxxxc/ la niña oscillations. It is fairly widely accepted that el niños bring drought to Australia and rain to Peru, and la niña the reverse.

    La niña conditions are thought to bring drought to Cal

    https://sites.google.com/site/medievalwarmperiod/Home/historic-el-nino-events
    Very likely El Nino events from history have so far been identified for:
    16th Century: 1500, 1525-26, 1531-32, 1535, 1539-41, 1544, 1546-47, 1552-53, 1558-61, 1565, 1567-68, 1574, 1578-79, 1581-82, 1585, 1587-89, and 1596.
    
17th Century: 1600-01, 1604, 1607-08, 1618-19, 1621, 1624, 1630-31, 1635, 1641, 1647, 1650, 1652, 1655, 1661, 1671, 1681, 1683-84, 1687-88, 1692, 1694-95 and 1697.
    
18th Century: 1701, 1703-04, 1707-09, 1713-14, 1715-16, 1718, 1720, 1723, 1725, 1728, 1731, 1734, 1734, 1737, 1744, 1747-48, 1751, 1754-55, 1761-62, 1765-66, 1768-70, 1772-73, 1776-78, 1782-84, 1785-86, 1790-93, 1794-97 and 1799.
    
19th Century: 1802-04, 1806-07, 1810, 1812, 1814, 1817, 1819, 1821, 1824-25, 1827-28, 1830, 1832-33, 1835-36, 1837-39, 1844-46, 1850, 1852-53, 1857-59, 1860, 1862, 1864, 1865-66, 1867-69, 1865, 1880, 1888-89, 1891, 1896-97 and 1899-1900.
    Possible 19th Century La Nina events have been identified in: 1872-74, 1875-76, 1879-80, 1886 87, 1889-90 and 1892-93.
    El Nino: 20th Century: 1902-1903 1905-1906 1911-1912 1914-1915 1918-1919 1923-1924 1925-1926 1930-1931 1932-1933 1939-1940 1941-1942 1951-1952 1953-1954 1957-1958 1965-1966 1969-1970 1972-1973 1976-1977 1982-1983 1986-1987 1991-1992 1994-1995 and 1997-1998.

    La Nina: 20th Century:  1904-1905 1909-1910 1910-1911 1915-1916 1917-1918 1924-1925 1928-1929 1938-1939 1950-1951 1954-1956 1956-1957 1964-1965 1970-1971 1971-1972 1973-1974 1975-1976 1984-1985 1988-1989 1995-1996 March 1998-early 2000.
    El Nino: 21st Century: 2002-2003, 2004-2005 and 2006-2007. July 2009-May 2010

    La Nina: 21st Century: Late 2000-early 2001. 2007-2008. 2008-April 2009. July 2010 – June 2011. Sept 2011 > current

    Did the Murray river , Australia’s longest river , ever stop flowing ? 
Murray-Darling Basin Commission water resources manager Andrew Close said if the Murray still had its natural flow, it would have probably stopped flowing this year ( 2006 ) , as it did in 1850 , 1902 – during the Federation drought when it stopped flowing for about 6 months , 1914, 1915 and 1923, while the Darling River dries up more frequently.
    http://home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/droughthistory.html
    Note: 1827 was a drought year in NSW. 1829 Murray river was flowing strongly. Both fit with above. Also 1870-1880’s were periods of rain in SA as wheat production was pushed north to the shores of Lake Eyre.
    That seems to fit. ‘All’ you have to do is find the cause of el niños and decide how to spend the Nobel prize money.

  14. Graeme No.3 says:

    Re flow in Nile river, these might be of some help.
    Taye, M.T. and Willems, P. 2012. Temporal variability of hydroclimatic extremes in the Blue Nile basin. Water Resources Research 48: 10.1029/2011WR011466.

    Sutcliffe, J.V. and Parks, Y.P. 1999. The Hydrology of the Nile. IAHS Special Publication 5.

    Tesemma, Z.K., Mohamed, Y.A. and Steenhuis, T.S. 2010. Trends in rainfall and runoff in the Blue Nile Basin: 1964-2003. Hydrological Processes 24: 3747-3758

  15. Pascvaks says:

    @R.de Haan – “Patience dear Pascvaks is not the right attitude to fence off this frontal attack at our civilization.”
    But there are so, so, so many ‘frontal attacks’ (and ‘internal revolutions’) and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t personally stop this one, and while it may implode and destroy itself, the vast majority of people don’t ‘care’ and are too busy doing 99 other and more important things. Besides, in the long view of it, civilizations come and go, always have and –as best I can tell– probably always will. I’m coming to the conclusion that Homo Sapien Sapien (you and me) don’t have much longer and I’m actually praying that the next species of man (and woman) are so much better brained than we are. You know, one with a decent memory. We really do need a better memory. If our offspring make it through the next little glacial period (the next 80,000 years) I have a good feeling that we might just make it to the stars.

    @Adolfo – anarchy is Nature’s way of saying “Run!” “Faster!!!” “Faster you damn fool, faster!” — I hear it’s good for the heart and mind. Brings everything into focus. Kind’a like a global “Great Depression”. We really don’t appreciate things, or people, until they’re gone. Funny, isn’t it? Also kind’a sad too. Life really is a lesson. We really are here to learn something. Some of the things we learn we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies, but we simply must learn fom experience, books are so bland;-)

    @No.3 – Appreciate the ENSO dates!

  16. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Graeme No.3 It is fairly widely accepted that el niños bring drought to Australia and rain to Peru, and la niña the reverse.
    More precisely (I am writing from Peru): Rain to northern Peruvian pacific coast and Drought to southern Peruvian high andean plains (Puno, lake Titicaca) and Bolivia too.

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