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Medieval Drought part 2

17 January 2021

This is bracketed under catastrophism as the 14th century famines and plagues were catastrophic. It is also assigned to catastrophism as a lot of this information is not deemed as valid by mainstream who look the other way. Whatever was going on in the so called drought of AD1302 and 1307 [see part 1, Jan  12th] it was not necessarily a drought in a textbook sense as it did not involve hot weather in the way that recent droughts in California and Australia were. It came during a period in which the average global temperatures had fallen. Alpine glaciers had been growing. The parallel is therefore missing. However, if one eliminates the opaque sky, the probable cause of the cooling, there might well be a parallel as the modern sky is far from opaque. The Sun does not struggle to warm the surface of the earth. In other words, other things going on in the 13th and 14th centuries may well obscure an underlying climatic cycle as envisaged by the authors of the new study.

Baillie points at some discrepancies between Irish oaks and English oak tree rings. For example, the latter on occasion are comparable to the German oak dendrochronology, diverging from the Irish oaks. Presumably this applies mostly in eastern and lowland Britain rather than in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. Between 1300 and 1306 the trends in both Ireland and England were similar, the normal situation. It might rain more in Ireland but it still rains a lot in England. The tree rings were so similar in fact that reduced growth in both sets of tree rings occur in 1303 and 1304 – and in 1305 and 1306 there was increased growth [wider tree rings denoting a warmer summer]. Then, for some reason, between 1307 and 1310 Ireland had an opposite growth pattern to that of England, which suggests, he says, an event of some kind impacted on one set of tree rings but not on the other, presumably affecting climate along the Atlantic sea board. The Dublin medieval oak chronology is even more explicit as it begins in AD885 but came to an abrupt end in 1306. Just like that. A bit of a mystery, as if oaks stopped growing for a couple of years. Then, after 1310 it went back to normal. Between 1312 and 1317 the Irish and English tree rings look very similar – until 1318-1319, where they diverge once again. . Between 1320 and 1353  they were once again similar in ring width, confirming that Ireland and Britain generally exist in the same climatic regime. Baillie says this is evidence of an environmental disturbance of some kind around 1307-1310, and again, at 1318-1319, with a smaller pulse of opposite trends in 1354-1356. Within a 50 year period there are 3 such environmental events. Other methodologies, he notes, date a sudden cooling of the North Atlantic ocean between the 1320s and 1330s.

Zeigler, in his book, 'The Black Death' [1969], mentions drought and  floods in China in 1336. Some 4 million people were said to be affected by subsequent  famine in 1337, while a deluge of precipitation, invasions by insects and other pests, and an earthquake, caused devastation. This appears to be another instance of electrical effects causing insects and animals to run from cover in the lead up to a tectonic event. It illustrates a variety of environmental events may have coincided with the lead up to the outbreak of plague in 1348.

David Hackett Fischer, in  'The Great Wave; price revolution and the rhythm of history' [1996], the subject being economic and commodity prices over the last 1000 years, associating inflation with rising population levels [particularly in the medieval era]. He says prices had slowly been rising throughout the 13th century in line with a growth in human numbers [in Britain and western Europe]. Pressure on grain prices was especially important as bread was the staple food item. Subsistence farming did not have the ability to increase yields greatly. Higher yields mainly came from turning marginal land into agricultural use, which in Britain meant exploiting common land and upland regions. In the summer of 1314 the weather became very cold and very wet. Rainfall was incessant. Crops rotted in the fields and the grain yield collapsed. Edward II imposed price controls on farm products but storms and heavy rain continued into the following year. Dikes collapsed as a result of so much water, both in the Low Countries and in Britain. Entire fields were washed away and half of Edward II's army was drowned without having a chance to confront the army of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn. Horses and heavy equipment were bogged down in mud and swampy conditions, in what is now the location of a small stream of water. Climate affected historical events as in the Low Countries an army of crack French knights was overwhelmed in a similar battle in a wet environment. From the Pyrenees to Slavic eastern Europe, and from Scotland to Italy, there was a failure of crops and widespread famine. In 1315 the price of grain rose eightfold. People are said to have fed themselves on animal droppings and leaves from trees and shrubs. Peasamts ate cats, rats, reptiles and insects. Cattle and farm animals succombed to disease but in spite of all this there was a lot of hoarding of grain. On the estates of royalty and the nobility for example, organised just for that purpose. All over western Europe abbeys and monasteries hoarded food as that is how they were set up, to grow and store grain and vegetables etc. They were slow to open their granaries to the poor and unfortunate. In 1315 so many people died, it is thought, it amounted to a tenth of the population. Grain prices peaked. Epidemics of one kind or another preceded the plague in 1348, weakening people and leaving their immune systems compromised. After 1348 the price of grain started to fall.

Brian Fagan, in his book 'The Little Ice Age' begins it around AD1300. However, on page 28 he notes that crop failure, in Poland and Russia, began as early as 1215 and  during the course of the 13th century some Alpine glaciers were beginning to advance, even to the extent of wiping out larch forests. In other countries the weather is said to have been warm, so the cold was not continuous but came and went on several occasions. He does note a lot of dry summers in some parts of Europe between 1284 and 1311, which is what the authors of the part 1 research paper may have in mind. The drought of 1302 to 1306 fits into this time scale, and the general  situation as reported from the period. Hence, the research appears to be on the button as far as that is concerned. Fagan goes on to say that in 1312 the Atlantic storm track shifted, and presumably the jet stream [the river in the atmosphere]. Winters became milder and both summers and winters were very much wetter.

Sacha Dobler also has quite a bit of information. For example, he points out that the Knights Templars abandoned the Holy Land in 1303. Is that a coincidence? He also says the Wolf solar minimum is dated 1280-1350 which means the so called drought of 1302-1307 lies within what is generally regarded as a cold period with few sun spots. It does of course fit into the growing glaciers in the Alps [and presumably elsewhere where the data is lacking]. On the other hand, if the period is designated a solar minimum simply because it got colder, for whatever reason, one might take this with a pinch of salt. What I mean as a cold period is that over the 70 years the temperature was on average lower and we also have plenty of evidence of warm interludes within that 70 years. Was anybody out there counting the sun spots in the 13th or 14th centuries?

Dante's 'Divine Comedy' was written at this time, a journey through purgatory with the threat of hell. It could have been inspired on  signs in the heavens,  meteors and that sort of thing, as well as atmospheric transient events associated with electromagnetic pulses striking an  atmosphere that was already open to greater cosmic ray penetration, and so on. Dobler also quotes Hekler's 'The Black Death and the Dancing Mania', a 19th century composition. Also, in the 1990s Hoyle and Wickramasinghe proposed the Black Death involved something going on in the atmosphere – either noxious clouds with an origin in a passing comet, we might think, or an actual virus with an origin in space [brought to earth via a meteor]. On the other hand, an earthbound virus may have migrated into the lower atmosphere and found a way to propagate itself in the air by swirling around the earth and infecting new regions as the years progressed, mutating as it went. Another source used by Dobler is Konrad von Mandenburg. He had some interesting ideas on gases leaking out of the earth as a result of tectonic movements, as well as fire also arising from inside the earth via venting [presumably methane or hydrogen gas]. Mandenburg was also atracted to reports of water gushing forth from mountains and hillsides. Where have we heard that one before? In the 5th and 6th centuries AD where the early saints were often associated with banging their staffs on the ground and causing water to rise out of the ground. The origin of this is once again tectonic events blocking springs which re-appeared at other locations. Earthquakes and tremors in Europe are unusual events and therefore anything associated with them, such as the sudden appearance of rats and mice from their hidey holes as a result of electromagnetic pulses preceding an earthquake. That may help to explain the association of rats with the plague. The release of flammable gases may have given rise to reports of fire and upheaval.

Dobler also claims there is evidence of biomass burning, during the period 1320 to 1350, which also correlates with ice cores of the period. There is also evidence of a high dust fall out and chlorides in China [Yang et al 2007]. Dobler also notes that the Wolf Minimum may have led to a weak magnetic field [quoting Svensmark but I haven't checked]. At the same time Dobler does not give much text to the injection of carbon 14 into the atmosphere at this time, as noted by Baillie. Ice cores provide a lot of information besides co2 content and temperature changes. For example, the injection of ammonia into the atmosphere, presumably with an origin in space [comets are often rich in ammonium and other gases] and nitric acid. This is evident in the 14th centujry and again, at the time of the Tunguska meteor of AD1908]. Comets, and possibly meteors, harbour noxious gases as various space missions and research has shown. Dobler also says that in the early 1300s climate variability also affected the Americas. Between 1276 and 1299 drought was a major problem leading to the abandonment of pueblos in Arizona, such as Arroy Honda. Dobler's missive is something of a hotch potch but collates the sort of thing regarded as wild ideas put down to peasant ignorance rather than wonderment. All was not disastrous however as alternative industries to agriculture seem to have thrived in some locations. I have a little book by a local historian on the Penn tile industry, roof tiles and floor tiles. These were being purchased right through the 14th century by the great and the good. Windsor castle was a customer and Penn floor tiles have been found in St Georges chapel for example, in cathedrals and abbeys, and in the well endowed churches all over the south of England. The black death affected villages differently. At Kimble near Princes Risborough all the tenants had died by 1349 and the land was left uncultivated. Some 77 of Buckinghamshire's clergy had died by the same year. The Poll Tax record for 1377 showed there were 81 adults still living in the parish so probably half the population may have perished. Tilke making was obviously something  where good money could be earned, unlike working on the land at the time. The cool  wet weather may have been calamitous for farmworkers but not for tile and pottery makers. The tilers had a market, one that still had pots access to great amounts of money and wealth. Poor harvests left most of the people and their animalss starving and vulnerable to infection but not for certain trades. Edward III, in 1340, was still levying taxes to pay for his wars with France and it came from parishes such as Penn. The poor may even have provided them with a cheap source of labour at the time, prepared to accept any kind of wage to earn a crust of bread. Tiles were being purchased by St Albans abbey in 1352, although we would expect also a loss of orders as a result of purchasers falling victim to the plague. In fact, the most  detailed accounts of the tilers comes after 1348 suggesting the industry had reorganised and new people had built kilns. Some 15 kilns were necessary just to meet the royal orders in 1357, yet many other establishments had the wealth to purchase Penn floor tiles. This expansion would have required a lot of labourers, presumably ex farm workers.



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