28 October 2008

The Medieval Greenland Vikings Can Teach Us About Climate Change

The Northern Hemisphere of this planet is in a normal warming cycle. It began to manifest itself as the preceding cycle, the Mini-Ice Age (1300-1800), wound down about the mid-19th century. Nothing in global climate happens overnight. Each cycle is of about 500-years duration. With that assumption, we can say that the midpoint of this warming cycle that we are enjoying will be about 2100. In other words, historically speaking, we can expect the climate to gradually trend toward warmer and dryer for the next 92-years. Then it might get worse, historically speaking that is.

The advent of the Medieval Warm Period (800-1300) gave rise to the Viking Age (793-1150).The warmer weather increased production of everything the Vikings ate. Populations among the Viking tribes burgeoned dramatically. This eventually led to thoughts of expansion and conquest; the norm throughout human history. The ice-locked fjords began to clear earlier in the season than normal. The length of the raiding and trading season continued to increase over the 500-year period of the Medieval Warm Period. The Vikings exploded out over the north and western Atlantic Ocean, settling Iceland, Greenland, and areas of northeastern North America. The five hundred years of comparatively benign weather during the Medieval Warm Period fostered the Viking Age. Earth's next weather cycle, the Mini-Ice Age (1300-1800), played a major roll in ending it, especially for isolated--from the homeland--Norse Greenland. The Greenland Norse lifestyle could not be maintained in the face of Climate Change and a changing environment--starvation loomed. Of all the single-cause explanations for the death of Norse Greenland, Climate Change has been the most durable. (Thomas McGovern, Vikings, The North Atlantic Saga, The Demise of Norse Greenland, 2000-Smithsonian Institution, 330-331.)

Now, if the present global Climate Change cycle - Global Warming - is our responsibility, you know carbon offsets, CO2, and whatnot, if we caused this calamity, how do you explain the Medieval Warm Period (800-1300)? It was warmer in the Northern Hemisphere then than it is now. Perhaps the Vikings, the Greenland Norse people whom I write about caused it with their peat fires, flatulent livestock, and whatnot. Sounds ridiculous, huh? It is ridiculous. They had nothing more to do with their natural planetary climate cycle then, than we do with ours today. Remember, all of this climate stuff has happened before. It has been happening for 18,000-years that we know about.

The sun and the oceans working in concert control the weather on this planet. Without this synergy, much of the inhabited areas of the northern and southern hemispheres would be uninhabitable. Simplistically speaking, the sun transmits most of its solar radiation to the earth along the equatorial belt, heating the oceans of the world and setting up out flowing currents that emanate north and south from the equator. At the same time, cold water from the Polar Regions sinks to the ocean floor establishing a flow pattern in the direction of the equator as they under ride the warm water flowing on the surface. Therefore, under ideal conditions a massive exchange of hot water from the equator and cold water from the poles occurs, giving us hominids the benign weather conditions that we enjoy over much of this planet.

All of this circulation occurs automatically because of the forces at play, hydrodynamics in other words. With Climate Change, the dynamics change. British scientists have reported that the warm water currents flowing toward northwestern Europe have declined by 30% since the 1950's. There also appears to be a 50% reduction in the amount of cold water flowing from the poles. Computer models of this dynamic predict that the North Atlantic current will cease to exist in 50-100 years. National Geographic News, James Owen, November 30, 2005. The same article points to the fact that the melting Arctic and Antarctic ice is diluting the salt water of the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. The dynamic of circulation dependent on sinking cold water flowing south from the North Pole, or north from the South Pole, to bring the warm water of the equatorial seas north and south, is stalling as a result. This fact will make the northern and southern hemisphere much colder within the next 50-100 years.

Now there are six billion of us, give or take. The fastest growing populations have the least: they are deficit societies. People in Africa--all of the continent--the Indian sub-continent, much of continental Asia, Asia Minor, much of South and Central America, all of Mexico, every island in the Caribbean--well, you get the picture. Like rats or lemmings, we are positioning ourselves for disaster on a scale that defies comprehension. Can we feed the world, save the disenfranchised? NO! In the final analysis why would we? Our survival would be compromised. Shortages are like a snowball rolling down a hill, they are cumulative. Food shortages will translate to less food to send to feed the populations of all the undeveloped countries that we already support, because they cannot feed themselves; we will keep what we have for ourselves; and nature will take its course with them-they will begin to starve.

Entrepreneurs and scientists are playing the well-meaning, misinformed, easily manipulated, masses of earthlings like the proverbial banjo. Why, you might ask? Because the politics of human-caused global warming offer enormous profit potential.

14 October 2008

Human Migration - The Arctic and North America During the Mini-Ice Age

From 1200-1800, Greenland and northern North America experienced climate change caused human and animal migration that has not been repeated to the present day. The climate in these areas began to change dramatically during the one to two centuries of the latter half of the Medieval Warm Period (700-1200) and the onset of the next natural climate cycle, the Mini-Ice Age (1300-1800).

The Greenland Norse, whom I write about, and the pre-historical ancestors of certain northern American Indian tribes, depended on large land and littoral animal species for their existence. As the climate decayed from the benign temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period, inland ice and snow pack and coastal sea icepack would have increased with the onset of the Mini-Ice Age. The animals affected would move gradually south to ensure their own survival. Humans who depended on them, moved with them.

A study of Indian language groups reveals that massive human migration occurred on the North American continent during the Mini-Ice Age. It is virtually impossible to determine origin and relationships between the tribal bands because of the mixing of peoples that occurred as a result of this climate induced forced migration.

I am specifically interested in the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Athapascan language groups, because the people speaking these languages would have had contact with the Greenland Norse settlers in my Axe of Iron series of novels, as the Norse moved south with them.

To offer credence to my contention of climate-caused human migration I offer the case of the contemporary Cree and Ojibwe Indians, both tribes are Algonquian speakers. Their pre-historical ancestors, the Naskapi and Anishinabeg respectively, play a major role in my novels, for they originated along the shorelines and inland areas of Hudson Bay/James Bay, where my first novel, Axe of Iron - The Settlers, takes place. Their ancestors, fleeing the climate onslaught from the north, spread out over the present day upper Midwest and Great Plains of the United States, where many of them remain to this day.

Others eventually made their way back north, again following their food source, as the climate moderated with the cycle that we enjoy today.

The Haudenosaunee, pre-historical ancestors of the Iroquois Indians, also contacted my Greenland Norse settlers during the period, but you will have to read my books to know how and where that association occurred.

I also offer the present day Navajo and Apache Indian tribes as an example of the mixing of cultures that occurred on this continent during the period. These indigenous people did not originate where they now reside, the American southwest. Their language is Athapascan and their pre-historical ancestors originated somewhere in what is now Canada. Their journey south began near the onset of the Mini-Ice Age, or about 1200.

As these nomadic warrior people took up residence in the southwest they came in contact with agrarian societies that were already there, such as the people we know only as Anasazi. Their invasion no doubt forced the Anasazi to develop the fortified cliff-dwellings - Mesa Verde for example - that they later abandoned as the onslaught of the warrior societies continued. This combined with the drought throughout the southwest that resulted during the period finally overcame their civilization.

Much happened on this continent as a direct result of climate-caused human migration during pre-history. The same thing will happen to contemporary humans - us - during the present natural climate cycle, as global climatic conditions dictate. The stark contrast will be that we will not be able to migrate, as our ancestors did, for we are too, many.