New science field: "paleoblameatology"

Christophorus Columbus, portrait by Sebastiano...

Christopher Columbus, responsible for the "little Ice Age" Image via Wikipedia

Some days you just have to shake your head and say to yourself that there’s irrational fixation on CO2 that has deep roots in the psyche when we see things like this. The 10:10 video was proof enough, but now we have “paleoblameatology” entering the picture to explain the Little Ice Age.

Meet Christopher Columbus, who had his day this week, but who has gone in the same week from being lauded explorer to destroyer of Europe’s climate by being a catalyst. From Stanford via Science News, of all places.

It boggles the mind.

Here’s the “logic”:

By the end of the 15th century, between 40 million and 80 million people are thought to have been living in the Americas. Many of them burned trees to make room for crops, leaving behind charcoal deposits that have been found in the soils of Mexico, Nicaragua and other countries.

About 500 years ago, this charcoal accumulation plummeted as the people themselves disappeared. Smallpox, diphtheria and other diseases from Europe ultimately wiped out as much as 90 percent of the indigenous population.

Trees returned, reforesting an area at least the size of California, Nevle estimated. This new growth could have soaked up between 2 billion and 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air.

Ice cores from Antarctica contain air bubbles that show a drop in carbon dioxide around this time. These bubbles suggest that levels of the greenhouse gas decreased by 6 to 10 parts per million between 1525 and the early 1600s.


6 to 10 parts per million drop in CO2 triggered the LIA? Seriously? Wow that’s some powerful climate sensitivity. Even the IPCC doesn’t think CO2 is that powerful. Let’s see, since then we added how much? The drop in question is shown below in yellow highlight:

The graph above has this citation in Wikipedia: Law Dome ice cores show lower levels of CO2 mixing ratios during 1550-1800 AD, leading investigators Etheridge and Steele to conjecture “probably as a result of colder global climate”.[46] I suppose Nevle never considered that the oceans might absorb that CO2, perhaps in response to cooling induced by lower solar activity and increased aerosols due to volcanoes.

As for the 6-10 PPM drop induced by Columbus setting off the LIA, maybe such extreme climate sensitivity works in only one direction? /sarc

Mike Smith over at Meteorological Musings sums up this absurdity pretty well:

Mr. Nevle inadvertently makes the case to continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere. The effects of a Little Ice Age today would be catastrophic given the much larger population of the world. With the shorter growing seasons many millions would starve.  The effects of another ice age, little or otherwise, would make global warming seem like a picnic.

h/t to Dr. Ryan Maue


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So it was the trees that grew….and not burning them down….that did it.
Well… least we know now that dropping CO2 levels by 10ppm…is a lot worse than raising it a hundred /snark

I think it’s much more likely that the temp dropped, and the resulting drop in the biosphere and ocean CO2 uptake accounts for the drop in CO2.

Jeff in Calgary

Living at 51°N, I wholeheartedly support global warming.


I saw this on /. and thought it was ridiculous. It reads like someone is trying to discredit climate science by giving them blatant stupidity to support.


O.o I had actually not expected something this completely baseless. So now we have today’s man-made! warming, the 70s man-made! cooling, as I understand 2 or so man-made! cooling/warming episodes (I see a late 1800s date murkily in in my head) before that… and now we’re rewriting history with several ppm of man-made! ice age. Several.
Truly, this boggles the mind.

The life of the mind in the Age of the Feuilleton might be compared to a degenerate plant which was squandering its strength in excessive vegetative growth, and the subsequent corrections to pruning the plant back to the roots. The young people who now proposed to devote themselves to intellectual studies no longer took the term to mean attending a university and taking a nibble of this or that from the dainties offered by celebrated and loquacious professors who without authority offered them the crumbs of what had once been higher education.
Hesse, Herman: “Magister Ludi”

I’m still waiting for an alarmist to tell me what they would say to the friends and family of someone who dies this winter because they cannot afford to heat their home.
Not one of them has had the guts to even respond.
The implication here is that the “precautionary” principle would suggest we pump as much CO2 into the atmosphere.
To put it in context, I was looking at what happened in the Maunder minimum:
1. The English Civil war which had quietened down, flared up and the end of monarchy as a political concept in Europe owes itself to the outcome.
2. 1690s there was serious famine (I’ve yet to link this to climate — I expect it is likely it will be linked)
3. The Darien scheme failed – even though the area was selected from those who had been before as being suitable. Again, I wonder whether this was climate related.
4. Because of 1,2 & 3 Scotland was virtually bankrupt and forced to enter Union with England on very unfavourable terms which have been a bone of contention ever since.
Some of the most traumatic events in UK history occurred during the Maunder minimum. If as I anticipate, they are climate related, and if as some suggest we are going into another Maunder minimum … hold onto your heads!**
**Charles I was beheaded. … a fate that could be awaiting Charles III …. given his love of greenhouse warming nonsense.

Jimmy Haigh

“They all laughed at Cristopher Columbus…”


What? “paleobamatology”?

Ian W

Richard Nevle perhaps should learn some basic physical chemistry (along with his geochemistry). He could start with calculating the increased solubility of CO2 in seawater at lower temperatures. He may then have an answer to the dip in ice core values.
While he is doing that he could also look at the effect of diffusion of CO2 from ice bubbles below the fern that takes centuries, and which misleads the unwary suffering from confirmation bias.

What a crock!
I guess he never heard of the Maunder minimum. That was the time when folk thought that Galileo was suffering from vision problems, since he claimed there were spots on the sun. Beginning in 1650, said spots disappeared. And it got COLD. As in, the North Sea froze over. One could (if one had the stamina) skate from Denmark to Sweden. Can’t do that anymore.
Science News has gone the way of Scientific American.
They have left science, and taken up advocacy.
What a waste!


So, did CO2 lag temperature, or was it opposite?
According to Petit et. al. and Fischer (Science) it (CO2) lags temperature with, say, 800 to 1000 years…….so, if a human did it, it must have been early Vikings…..

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

Just when you think the Warmist comments can’t get any crazier…


40 million and 80 million people ?
the current population of the Americas is 913 million … are they really trying to tell us that tribal Americans had populations that equaled 5-10% of todays population 500 years ago ? not bloody likely … don’t forget, no horses before Christopher showed up …

Gary Pearse

This is their solution to the embarassment of the LIA that they have been trying to get rid of. This is how modern science seems to operate. Deny the existence of the LIA and the MWP, etc. Then when it can’t be ignored, come up with a human-CO2 cause for these inconvenient events. I heard on “Quirks and Quarks” a science radio thing on CBC an interview with Saul Perlmutter – Nobel P winner in physics in 2009(?) who discovered that the U is expanding at an accelerating rate. He and colleagues have invoked “Dark Energy” as the driver. Read the drivel of the first few paragraphs and tell me I’ve missed the point.
Give me a break! They invoked dark matter to shore up Newtonian/Einsteinian gravity theory and now they have to invoke “Dark Energy” to overcome the effect created by the massive Dark Matter, which would be slowing the expansion down – all this in close to empty space. Science from all disciplines has decided that the science is largely settled and just a few patches and tweaks are all we need as a substitute for falsification.


There seems to be no end of the silliness that “climate science” has become. It is worse than the counting bumps on people’s head thing years ago.

Alex the skeptic


If you consider that besides Columbus, there was Vasco da Gama, Pedro ALvares Cabral, and Magalhães, just to name a few Portuguese that also opened new paths to the whole World, I would just say:
it was much worse than we thought!

Dave Springer

On the bright side, this is one of those rare things the moonbat brigade can’t pin on George W. Bush.
Further proof that every cloud has a silver lining!

Bob the swiss

Stanford University is considered as an excellent american university … I believe that I will reconsider my opinion !


The power of miniscule variations of the proportions of CO2 in our atmosphere knows no bounds. Clearly, the single most powerful substance on the planet. At least in the fertile imaginations of CAGW scaremongers! Obviously, it is only a matter of time before the entire history of life, the universe and everything can all be explained by variations in this molecule.


When we went into an glacial age 2 million years ago with no people to burn down tree how the heck did we get out?

Mike Bromley the Kurd

Paleolobotomy. Honestly, you just can’t make this stuff up. It just seems so trite and vacuous. I had to read it several times to absorb the rarified substance of it all.


kwik says:
October 14, 2011 at 9:16 am
“According to Petit et. al. and Fischer (Science) it (CO2) lags temperature with, say, 800 to 1000 years…….so, if a human did it, it must have been early Vikings…..”
Do we know if the Vikings brought some diseases from Europe that killed indigenous population.? The Greenland settlements must have had some contacts looking for wood and other stuff.
One thing is true, the effects of another ice age, little or otherwise, would make global warming seem like a picnic.

P Walker

IIRC , the LIA began in the fourteenth century – more than one hundred fifty years before Colombus set sail for the New World .


I may be wrong here but didn’t the LIA start a couple hundred years before Columbus’ birth?


I am losing my faith in science, scientists, universities..
I think all university education should be self funded.. No loans, no help.. Nowt.

Might he be suggesting a plus billion human slaughter, so that some Global Cooling comes our way?


Why don’t you read the report a bit more carefully? You claim:
“I suppose Nevle never considered that the oceans might absorb that CO2, perhaps in response to cooling induced by lower solar activity and increased aerosols due to volcanoes.”
The report says:
“Natural processes may have also played a role in cooling off Europe: a decrease in solar activity, an increase in volcanic activity or colder oceans capable of absorbing more carbon dioxide”
And why don’t you do a little bit of maths? You can calculate the forcing easily using the well known formulae from Myhre et al (1998). A 10ppm drop from approximately 280ppm would give you a forcing of about -0.2W/m². This is not huge but is certainly not negligible.
I don’t really understand what your problem is with this basically plausible mechanism for depopulation to influence the climate.

From 11 years ago:
“New Study Shows Reforestation of Agricultural Land Played an Important Role in Reducing Greenhouse Gases over Last Century”, By Sharon Keeler UNH News Bureau November 9, 2000.
Today’s news: ‘We have a massive reforestation event that’s sequestering carbon… coincident with the European arrival”.
Both studies claim that CO2 was sucked from the atmosphere by rapidly growing forests. In one case this caused a Little Ice Age.
From climatology, we know that there was unprecedented warming in the late 20th century. According to the UNH study, that was when we also were growing a huge CO2 sink in the reforestation process in the late 20th century.
Am I missing something, here? Did reforestation cause the Little Ice Age, and the unprecedented warming in the late 20th century?

There is absolutely no physical evidence for this. At most the native population of the new world was around 20 million souls in 1492. In Alabama people have harvested old growth logs from the bottom of rivers that were much older than the date of the date of Columbus
What has happened to Stanford to fall so far?

Robert of Ottawa

Sorry, Anthony, I couldn’t even get beyond the first sentance/pargraph.
I larfed so ard it urt.
Seriously, are they serious? What was it Shakespeare said about strutting your stuff on stage telling a tale like an geochemical idiot?

Also, the reforesting, if it happened, would have been more than offset by the dramatic increase in population brought about by the industrial revolution.

More Soylent Green!

These people have hated Columbus for decades. There just trying to keep it fresh.


Evidently, Christopher Columbus was truly a great man. He pioneered he concept of using genocide to enrich himself and save the world from ‘global warming’, more than 500 years before Hansen and Gore rediscovered the same plan.

Eyal Porat

Scottish Sceptic says:
October 14, 2011 at 9:10 am
I’m still waiting for an alarmist to tell me what they would say to the friends and family of someone who dies this winter because they cannot afford to heat their home.
You missed the point –
The precautionary principle is like this:
Since Man is causing Global Warming the best way to prevent it is by reducing humanity size.
What a better way than to let nature do it for you, may it by warming or cooling.

Stu in SDGO

For Dave Springer: I’m sure that the Lefties will conveniently find (or divine) a geneological link from Columbus to W.


all over california it was ‘diss columbus day’ on all public radio stations.
although columbus never actually hit the north american continent (america was not named columbia for a reason) the casino indians were bewailing the smallpox blankets he distributed to them out here in california.
and nobody but nobody was about to set them straight. guilt is gilt, here – never look a in the mouth, you know.
california has an activist on every corner – living off the fat of the land, you know.
there probably aren’t a lot of 3 letter acronyms left for new ngos or non.profits….lol
well, there is ‘lol’…
i guess it doesn’t hurt enough yet because the population of the publicly funded is not diminishing a bit as far as i can tell.

dave in Canmore

This guy is a geochemist? Can someone tell me what cereal box he got his degree from?

dave in Canmore

Does he not think that the plants that replaced the trees sequestered carbon? Pathetic, shameful and embarassing. These people have never spent a day outside in their lives or they may have learned the basic workings of nature that might prevent saying such assinine things.

You guys don’t understand …we could now easily compute how many millions have to die to restore carbon balance to the value in 1800, then pass the number to Franny Armstrong so she can put no pressure on them.


And here we are afraid of CO2 doubling…? If 6-10 ppm can do that much, we’re fried already, just haven’t noticed yet…

Charlie Z

Well, that is a relief. If it starts to get too hot, all we need to do is burn all the trees and let them grow back to cool things off. Phew.

lemiere jacques

well little ice age doesn’t exist, colombus created little lice age, colombus didn’t exit.

And he works at Stanford? I am surprised of his ignorance of history and when the LIA started and stopped. At best they can claim it exacerbated the LIA. Since the effects of the European colonization of the Americas could not be fully felt when it started. indeed, most of the continents were unspoiled and untraveled by the Europeans until the LIA was almost over!


Shhhhhhh… don’t y’all know that Chris is “OUT”. He caused all these problems and is to be hated, loathed, despised, excoriated, and damned henseforth and forevermore. Lord love a duck! Get with the program guys! Big Al discovered America! Don’t ya know nuttin? (GoreSarkOn’nOffOver’nOutComeonBack)
PS: When the UN General Assembly, Security Council, and Noble Peas Prize Committee vote to rename the Western Hemisphere after Fat Albert y’all need to get down to yer tennie shoes, shorts, and tie-dyed dirty t-shirts and howl like a bunch of card carrying Commies on May Day; if ya don’t he might feel hurt.


In my opinion, the party ended in Europe in 1280, coincident with the onset of the Wolf sunspot minimum (although Atlantic pack ice and Greenland glaciers began advancing around 1250 – )
The weather didn’t get really godawful for a few decades, but I consider 1280 to be the end of the Medieval Warm Period.
By 1315, the weather in Europe really did go to hell:
without much help from Chris Columbus, european colonizers, or too darn many trees sucking up too darn much CO2.


October 14, 2011 at 10:04 am
because its little more then propaganda and not science …
A guy ran a red light and I t-boned him going 50MPH. The damage I did could have been due to the 5MPH tail wind. The fact that I was full throttle might have also played a role…
yay right …

I am surprised to see the level of skepticism being raised against this idea.
R Pielke Srn have long advocated a MUCH greater role for land use changes in altering climate.
I think the claim is that cutting down trees when agriculture is practiced alters transevaporation rates and albedo as well as altering the altering the carbon sequestration/release rates.
Mature forest have a small neutral role in carbon release and sequestration.
felling/burning forest releases large amounts of CO2, a positive addition to the atmospheric ratio in the carbon cycle..
Growing annual crops forms a neutral annual shuffle of carbon in the cycle larger than a mature forest.
The regrowth of a forest sequesters more carbon than it releases so is a negative, removal of CO2 from the atmospheric portion in the carbon cycle.
However there are many other elements to The R Pielke arguments for the significance of land use which would seem to connect with this hypothesis.

kBob says: October 14, 2011 at 9:53 am
I may be wrong here but didn’t the LIA start a couple hundred years before Columbus’ birth?
That will be adjusted in the next paper … due out in … 18 days?