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Ancient climatic clues shed new light on history


This story is original featured on Yale Environment 360 which is part of Climate office cooperation.

Joseph Manning, a professor of ancient history at Yale University, likes to remember the moment he was shown an advance copy of a scientific paper that determined the timing of major volcanic eruptions over the past 2,500 years. “I literally fell off a chair,” he said recently, reading the newspaper...

Relying on new geochemical techniques to analyze glacial sediments to date ancient volcanic activity down to the year or even season, the paper is published in temper nature In 2015, major volcanic eruptions around the world caused a velocity of up to a decade. Drops in global temperatures. Subsequent research has pegged these droplets at 13 degrees Fahrenheit..

What astounded Manning, the Egyptologist, was that the paper recalibrated the previous chronology of seven to eight years, so that the dates of the eruptions precisely coincided with the timing of the well-documented political, social, and military upheavals over three centuries of ancient Egyptian history. The paper also linked volcanic eruptions to the 6 majory Century A.D. Epidemics, famines, and social and economic upheavals in Europe, Asia, and Central America. The paper argued that the inescapable conclusion was that volcanic soot — which cools the Earth by shielding its surface from sunlight, negatively affecting growing seasons and causing crop failures — helped drive those crises.

Since then, other scientific papers that rely on paleoclimate data—most of them based on the latest technology originally designed to understand climate change—have found countless instances when shifts in climate have helped spark social and political upheaval and, often, collapse. last paper. Posted last month. in a Earth and Environment Communications which postulated “a systematic association between volcanic eruptions and dynastic collapse across two millennia of Chinese history.”

The study found that 62 of 68 strains collapsed. They occurred shortly after volcanic eruptions in the northern hemisphere, an outcome that would have had only a 1 in 2,000 chance if eruptions and collapses were irrelevant. The Chinese have traditionally cited the withdrawal of the “mandate of heaven” to explain the cold weather, drought, floods, and agricultural failures that seemed to accompany the downfall of the dynasties. The paper asserts that these phenomena have a climatic explanation.

All of these papers are driven by a nearly decade-long revolution in climate science technology. A storm of quantitative data from “climate proxies” — ice cores, tree rings, stalagmites and stalactites, lake and swamp sediments and the sea floor — has upended the way some historians do their work.

Joe McConnell, who directs a pilot ice analytical laboratory at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, believes that climate data offers historians what the DNA evidence of the judicial system does: an objective, indisputable source of very important information. Like the DNA evidence that overturns the guilty verdict, McConnell said, the climatic data is information that historians must “absorb.”

To make use of this data, some historians cross broad barriers within their discipline to work with biologists, geologists, geographers, palaeoclimatologists, climate designers, anthropologists, and others. These mold-breaking historians learn geochemistry and climatology. The scholars who work with them read history.

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