14 January 2011


Inspired by a new science paper, I attempt to distill its haiku.
Thermometers rise—
plowing crooked furrows straight
societies fall

Based on the paper, "2500 Years of European Climate Variability and Human Susceptibility" in Science. The abstract:

Climate variations have influenced the agricultural productivity, health risk, and conflict level of preindustrial societies. Discrimination between environmental and anthropogenic impacts on past civilizations, however, remains difficult because of the paucity of high-resolution palaeoclimatic evidence. Here, we present tree ring–based reconstructions of Central European summer precipitation and temperature variability over the past 2500 years. Recent warming is unprecedented, but modern hydroclimatic variations may have at times been exceeded in magnitude and duration. Wet and warm summers occurred during periods of Roman and medieval prosperity. Increased climate variability from ~AD 250 to 600 coincided with the demise of the Western Roman Empire and the turmoil of the Migration Period. Historical circumstances may challenge recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change.

The painting is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, 1558, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. You can just make out the crashed Icarus in the water near the boat. No one seems to notice.

The paper:
      Buntgen, U., Tegel, W., Nicolussi, K., McCormick, M., Frank, D., Trouet, V., Kaplan, J., Herzig, F., Heussner, K., Wanner, H., Luterbacher, J., & Esper, J. (2011). 2500 Years of European Climate Variability and Human Susceptibility Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1197175
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