Ancient Iraqi meteorologists speak to the present on climate

From Wiley-Blackwell via Eurekalert

English: An Arabic manuscript written under th...

Example of an Arabic text - Image via Wikipedia

Ancient Arabic writings help scientists piece together past climate

Iraqi sources from 9th and 10th centuries give new meteorological insights – The team believes the sources show Iraq to have experienced a greater frequency of significant climate events and severe cold weather than today.

Ancient manuscripts written by Arabic scholars can provide valuable meteorological information to help modern scientists reconstruct the climate of the past, a new study has revealed. The research, published in Weather, analyses the writings of scholars, historians and diarists in Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age between 816-1009 AD for evidence of abnormal weather patterns.

Reconstructing climates from the past provides historical comparison to modern weather events and valuable context for climate change. In the natural world trees, ice cores and coral provide evidence of past weather, but from human sources scientists are limited by the historical information available. Until now researchers have relied on official records detailing weather patterns including air force reports during WW2 and 18th century ship’s logs.

Now a team of Spanish scientists from the Universidad de Extremadura have turned to Arabic documentary sources from the 9th and 10th centuries (3rd and 4th in the Islamic calendar). The sources, from historians and political commentators of the era, focus on the social and religious events of the time, but do refer to abnormal weather events.

“Climate information recovered from these ancient sources mainly refers to extreme events which impacted wider society such as droughts and floods,” said lead author Dr Fernando Domínguez-Castro. “However, they also document conditions which were rarely experienced in ancient Baghdad such as hailstorms, the freezing of rivers or even cases of snow.”

Baghdad was a centre for trade, commerce and science in the ancient Islamic world. In 891 AD Berber geographer al-Ya’qubi wrote that the city had no rival in the world, with hot summers and cold winters, climatic conditions which favored strong agriculture.

While Baghdad was a cultural and scientific hub many ancient documents have been lost to a history of invasions and civil strife. However, from the surviving works of writers including al-Tabari (913 AD), Ibn al-Athir (1233 AD) and al-Suyuti (1505 AD) some meteorological information can be rescued.

When collated and analysed the manuscripts revealed an increase of cold events in the first half of the 10th century. This included a significant drop of temperatures during July 920 AD and three separate recordings of snowfall in 908, 944 and 1007. In comparison the only record of snow in modern Baghdad was in 2008, a unique experience in the living memories of Iraqis.

“These signs of a sudden cold period confirm suggestions of a temperature drop during the tenth century, immediately before the Medieval Warm Period,” said Domínguez-Castro. “We believe the drop in July 920 AD may have been linked to a great volcanic eruption but more work would be necessary to confirm this idea.”

The team believes the sources show Iraq to have experienced a greater frequency of significant climate events and severe cold weather than today. While this study focused on Iraq it demonstrates the wider potential for reconstructing the climate from an era before meteorological instruments and formal records.

“Ancient Arabic documentary sources are a very useful tool for finding eye witness descriptions which support the theories made by climate models,” said Domínguez-Castro. “The ability to reconstruct past climates provides us with useful historical context for understanding our own climate. We hope this potential will encourage Arabic historians and climatologists to work together to increase the climate data rescued from across the Islamic world.”

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Latitude

They found these manuscripts in the glove box of a 1010 Ford Explorer………….

I think Latitude is thinking of Minnesota ballot handling procedures.

Jeff D.

Holy Hail Batman, there was climate change before burning of fossil fuel? Anyone else notice the cycle signature in the dates of snow? 908, 944 and 1007.

Bloke down the pub

Did they find any mention of WMD?

Rhys Jaggar

I hope this article invokes the thought that there may be much to be found out from ancient civilisations, be they in Mexico, the Andes, Egypt, the home of Islam, ancient China, the Aborigines, the Inuit, the ancient Indians of North America etc etc.

Steve C

Nobody can accuse Anthony of not drawing his readers’ attention to the widest possible range of sources of evidence! Give this man an award … oh, they did.

AC

Has anyone checked China for records? I know that Halley’s Comet has been recorded by the Chiness going back to before 200BC. I wonder what abnormal weather – or normal weather they recorded.

kbray in california

This article is so Politically Correct….
“You will recall that just last year (2010) President O directed the head of NASA to focus on highlighting Muslim contributions to science.”
I feel so at peace.

Unattorney

Chinese have much older weather records which is why they have played us for fools on solar, wind,and other green fantasies.Obama borrowed our children’s money and gave it to China to pay for his gimmicks.

GregO

Rhys – Excellent point.
I recall reading in a book about lost languages that weather and wildlife observations made by locals (along with oral traditional narratives) are shown to be highly skilled and accurate – it was a rationale for attempting the preservation of native languages, that in losing a language, we lose all the knowledge of animal, plant, and climate knowledge that particular language speaking group had developed.
This really is an area the UN could (conceivably) play a constructive role, that is, the study, preservation, and publication of native languages and how they have and continue to track the natural world. I would be a bit surprised if the UN is actually engaged in anything like that. Just a thought.

Al Gore's Holy Hologram

It snows in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) and the Zagros mountains most winters, so the author should have been more specific of the region. Iraq is not just some hot flat desert like some westerners imagine. It has every different type of climate and landscape.

Jeff D: No I did not think of it. I think I just assumed that being that old, the reports represented a reasonable view of reality.
It IT is interesting, now that you have brought it to attention, to note the pattern fit.

SandyInDerby

Do any of the dates match with those in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (not the only simultaneous record I’m sure)?
For instance:-
1046 And in the same year, after Candlemas, came the strong winter, with frost and with snow, and with all kinds of bad weather; so that there was no man then alive who could remember so severe a winter as this was, both through loss of men and through loss of cattle; yea, fowls and fishes through much cold and hunger perished.
1115 This year was the winter so severe, with snow and with frost, that no man who was then living ever remembered one more severe; in consequence of which there was great destruction of cattle.
1125 In this same year was so great a flood on St. Laurence’s day, that many towns and men were overwhelmed, and bridges broken down, and corn and meadows spoiled withal; and hunger and qualm in men and in cattle; and in all fruits such unseasonableness as was not known for many years before. And this same year died the Abbot John of Peterborough, on the second day before the ides of October.

I lost track of the bloggies. Congrats! Suggests that there are honest people about.

Ray

“many ancient documents have been lost to a history of invasions and civil strife”
I bet we can guess the date when that happened… 2003 maybe?

I’m more interested that the Islamic Golden Age is apparently 1,003 years in the past. My how time flies!

Al Gore’s Holy Hologram said @ February 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

It snows in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) and the Zagros mountains most winters, so the author should have been more specific of the region. Iraq is not just some hot flat desert like some westerners imagine. It has every different type of climate and landscape.

When was Baghdad in Kurdistan, or the Zagros Mountains?

John Greenfraud

The ancient Iraqis had to pay for harming mother earth. The sky dragon sent down extreme weather to hold the infestations(people) accountable for breathing, cook stoves, and building damns for water and agriculture. Only when the great sky dragon had been paid its penance could man then return to be one with nature.
Definition of nature: Whatever the eco-fascists say it is.

mkelly

Ray says:
February 27, 2012 at 11:21 am
“many ancient documents have been lost to a history of invasions and civil strife”
I bet we can guess the date when that happened… 2003 maybe?
Yes Ray all of the following happened after 2003.
At different periods in its history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Abbasid empires. It was also part of the Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman empires, and under British control as a League of Nations mandate.[5][6]

Ian W

It was unfortunate that Domínguez-Castro.made this statement:
““Ancient Arabic documentary sources are a very useful tool for finding eye witness descriptions which support the theories made by climate models,”
This approach begs for cherry picking and confirmation bias.
It would have been far better had Domínguez-Castro said:
“Ancient Arabic documentary sources are a very useful tool for finding eye witness descriptions with which to validate the results of climate models,”

We also have plenty of climate references from the extensive records of the Byzantine Empire from approx 350 AD to 1450 when Byzantium was sacked by the Ottomans-so that is verey much an adjacent area to that cited in the Spansish study. I wrote about some of that here;
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/14/little-ice-age-thermometers-%E2%80%93-history-and-reliability/
Some of the Roman climate references are fascinating. This observation from a series of cold winters -after many warm ones- around the 8th century in Byzantium (centred around Modern day Turkey)
“Theophanes’ account recalls how, as a child, the author (or his source’s author) went out on the ice with thirty other children and played on it and that some of his pets and other animals died. It was possible to walk all over the Bosporus around Constantinople and even cross to Asia on the ice. One huge iceberg crushed the wharf at the Acropolis, close to the tip of Constantinople’s peninsula, and another extremely large one hit the city wall, shaking it and the houses on the other side, before breaking into three large pieces; it was higher than the city walls. The terrified Constantinopolitans wondered what it could possibly portend.”
So we have plenty of human observations which of course are considreed merely ‘anecdotal by climate scientists and largely dismissed.
tonyb

Bill Porritt

Ray needs to remember the destructive invasion of the Mongols, who made the West’s multiple interventions seem rather puny.

Tom C

In 2008 we were told the Baghdad snow was due to global warming playing havoc with the weather. The parroted talking point in leftist echo chambers was that climate change wasn’t uniform and that as some places got warmer, some places got colder. Never mind their silly analogy supposedly applies to long-term climate but they cite that nonsense as an example to explain away the weather. So be it… but if global warming supposedly caused the 2008 Baghdad snow event – because it was the only snow event there ‘in living memory’ – why is it then, that three snow events over a thousand years ago, each one far enough apart that at the time they would also likely be the ‘only snowfall in living memory’ is indicative of the climate. This is a blatantly false argument. And aren’t we always told that weather events aren’t indicative of climate? Yet in this case, since three outnumbers one, just THREE snowfalls over a nearly 200-year period somehow validates, in the mind of warmists, the idea that is was colder than than it is now, hence global warming is true. It also flies in the face of the anecdotal evidence they routinely dismiss, as they have no issue using a once-in-70 year event as anecdotal evidence to the contrary when it loosely fits their agenda.
So, what are we to take from this? That anecdotal evidence of it snowing in Baghdad at the rate of once-in-a-lifetime over a thousand years ago is an indicator of climate change, even though there was just a once-in-a-lifetime snowfall just four years ago. And why is it in every article that flimsily links odd weather to climate change they somehow prove that the occurrence of odd weather is, in fact, not all that unusual relatively speaking. What’s even more entertaining to consider is the contortionist positions warmists must twist themselves into trying to explain away all the inconsistencies in their theory.

kbray in california

Wiley-Blackwell, leads to Eurekalert,
leads to AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science).
See anyone you recognize?
http://www.aaas.org/meetings/2012/program/plenaries/
Theme – Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society
The 21st century is shaping up to be a challenging one. The issues that face us are many: climate change, energy, agriculture, health, water, biodiversity and ecosystems, population growth, and economic development.
http://www.aaas.org/meetings/2012/program/theme/
So many warmists, so much money !

Mike McMillan

Dr Hansen is already hard at work adjusting the data.

1DandyTroll

Jeff D. says:
February 27, 2012 at 10:51 am
“Holy Hail Batman, there was climate change before burning of fossil fuel? Anyone else notice the cycle signature in the dates of snow? 908, 944 and 1007.”
944-908=36, 1007-36=971.
And you know what that means? That means Leif Ericsson was one year of age and so, I conclude, with reasonably accurate deductive capabilities, that he was one year closer to discover North America by ways of Newfoundland.
But, of course, Al-Sharif al-Radi, a descendent to the Prophet Muhammad had his one year birthday too that very same year, so I guess I could be seeing a different pattern completely.
:p

Joachim Seifert

The oldest climatological + meteorological observations are referred to in: Fernand Braudel,
the greatest Frencg historian of the world in “Memories and the Mediterranean”: Quoting
a (600 BC) conversation of the Pharao with Solon (Ruler of Greece):
The climate
…[is not a hockey stick but] …occurs in century long waves, climate waves, dry and cold, moist
and warm…a continuous temperature up and down on MULTIPLE_CENTENNIAL scale….
[as the past millenium also shows: MWP to LIA – CWP -21.Cty) a natural up and down…..
further,
on decadal scale, there is the changing of the prevalent air currents from North or South….
……. Here we have climate knowledge from over 2,500 years before. The only one who
disregards historical knowledge is the Hockeystick-Mann and his CAGW-scientific dwarfs….
JS

Pedric

Records in the 9th and 10th centuries (the 2nd and 3rd nominal Islamic, not 3rd and 4th), would have been written by Christian, Persian and Jewish Syriacs. Apart from the Persians they were Chaldeans and Assyrians, ethnically Semitic people but not Arabs. The intelligentsia in early Islam were the same groups of Persians, Jews, and Christians who were the local intelligentsia when greater Syria was still a Byzantine province.
The reason the 9th-12th centuries were the Islamic “golden age” is because it took 300 years for Islam to finally stamp out original thinking. It’s actually likely that the earliest “Islamic” rulers were Nestorian Christians because Islam, as such, doesn’t appear in the historical record until the early 8th century, about 100 years after Muhammad purportedly died.
I write “purportedly” because Muhammad has no historical presence, either. Contemporaneous writers are completely silent about him, as they are about Islam.

Phil R

Latitude says:
February 27, 2012 at 10:45 am
They found these manuscripts in the glove box of a 1010 Ford Explorer………….
C’mon, everyone knows they drive nothing but Toyota pickups over there! 🙂

Bob Diaz

If our whole life was lived for one week, we would have trouble seeing the pattern from Summer to Winter and another Summer coming again. On the other hand, if we lived for thousands of years, we would see other patterns to climate that we don’t see, because our lives are too short.

kellyb

Ray says:
February 27, 2012 at 11:21 am
“I bet we can guess the date when that happened… 2003 maybe?”
no 1258ad
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Baghdad_%281258%29

Gary Pearse

Gee this is a step forward. Historical records like the “Froste Faires” on the Thames were not embraced as a record of Little Ice Age’s existence. It was papered over like the MWP to make the ‘hockey stick” run straight and true until 1980s.

Ray

kellyb says:
February 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm
It’s worst then you though…
“Pillaging 7000 Years Of Iraq History No Accident”
http://www.rense.com/general37/sack.htm
People underestimate the wealth of historical artifacts and records that were present in Iraq before the US invasion. There was no WMD but there was a great wealth of culture that is now definitively gone.

David L

How quickly will the AGW crowd show that these ancient manuscripts only show the historical context of local weather and not global climate?

JimF

Bloke down the pub says:
February 27, 2012 at 10:54 am “…Did they find any mention of WMD?…” They haven’t translated the diaries and other writings from Damascus yet.

kellyb

Ray says:
February 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm
It’s worst then you though…
“Pillaging 7000 Years Of Iraq History No Accident”
http://www.rense.com/general37/sack.htm
—-snipped from link—-
Copyright 1998-2003
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved
————————-
agenda driven reporting ?

Psalmon

Curiously, 891 AD was also the year al-Ya’qubi wrote in another document that Baghdad announced plans to use Windmills and Algae to help power itself into the next millennium.
“In 891 AD Berber geographer al-Ya’qubi wrote that the city had no rival in the world.”

Hector Pascal

Anyone seriously interested in historic records of climate should consult the Late, Great, Jean Grove’s “The Little Ice Age”. Mine is the first edition (Routledge 1988), but there is a 2nd. It is 498 pages long and meticulously documents all of the sources available to her at the time of writing.
From memory, for example, she draws on historic records including Scandinavian tax records and tithes (taxmen always write stuff down) showing good and bad harvests, crop failures etc. Scandinavia is a good source because it wasn’t repeatedly invaded and pillaged, so quite a lot of stuff is preserved. Another source is French grape harvest dates. Grapes require a set total number of sunshine hours before they ripen, so harvest date is a useful proxy.
She also covers non-European/North American sources where available. Everything is fully referenced, so her books are an excellent entry into the literature.

If I remember my studies in archaeology at one time Mesopotamia were like Egypt, growing grains.
Egypt was thought to be the granary of the world. Rarely did it rain, and they were dependent on the floods that came down the Nile, to irrigate like Mesopotamia did. Somewhere along the line
they were invaded and the irrigation canals destroyed, but can’t remember when. Think it was
BCE. But the mini ice age of the 14th Century to mid 1850 in UK, stopped grape or vine growing.
But they turned the grape presses into the first printing presses. I didn’t know that these climatic events also effected agriculture and animal husbandry in the middle east though.

pekke

Here is two lists of historical weather events covering nearly the last 2 000 years.
http://www.breadandbutterscience.com/Weather.pdf
http://www.breadandbutterscience.com/climatehistory.pdf

sHx

I was looking forward to reading a few original quotes related to weather and climate direct from these ancient Arabic texts.
All we have are quotes from researchers. Meh!

sHx, but – these ancient texts prove one thing, it has happened before, weather patterns, LOL

Philemon

kellyb says:
February 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm
—-snipped from link—-
Copyright 1998-2003

World Socialist Web Site

All rights reserved

————————-

agenda driven reporting ?
Oh, no! Not Socialists! Well, at least they’re honest and don’t call themselves Progressives or Neoconservatives or, heaven forbid, Rockefeller Republicans. 😉
http://costsofwar.org/sites/default/files/articles/54/attachments/Gusterson_Universities_and_the_Costs_of_the_Iraq_Wars-2.pdf
Somehow, I don’t have any difficulty in imagining a brain drain in the circumstances.

Hector Pascal said @ February 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Another source is French grape harvest dates. Grapes require a set total number of sunshine hours before they ripen, so harvest date is a useful proxy.

Not sunshine hours, Growing Degree Days.
From the Wikibloodypedia:

Unless stressed by other environmental factors like moisture, the development rate from emergence to maturity for many plants depends upon the daily air temperature. Because many developmental events of plants and insects depend on the accumulation of specific quantities of heat, it is possible to predict when these events should occur during a growing season regardless of differences in temperatures from year to year. Growing degrees (GDs) is defined as the number of temperature degrees above a certain threshold base temperature, which varies among crop species.

Growing degree days are only an approximate guide for grapes (and other crops). Drought, pestilence and disease all restrict plant development as do days when the temperatures rise above the plants’ upper threshold for growth. These days we use bunch thinning and leafing to alter the rate of ripening and it’s not at all clear that these techniques were not used in the past. There is also considerable competition for labour at grape harvest in a peasant community and likely harvesting staple crops would have taken precedence over luxury goods.
The study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate is called phenology.
Hubert Lamb’s books Climate, History and the Modern World and Climate Present Past and Future are well worth reading if you’re into the history of climate.

Hector Pascal

@The Pompous Git says:
Fair enough PG, I stand corrected, thanks. My CYA was that it was from memory, and it’s been more than 10 years since I read it. Lamb noted.
BTW, Grove goes back a lot further than the LIA where sources allow.

Evan Thomas

I am a touch surprised that learned posters have not quoted from Jo Nova. Go to http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12-chinese-tree-ring-study-shows etc. A fascinating study of tibetan tree rings covering 2485 years with interesting comments on the methodology and significance. I look foreword to reading comments/critiques o experts in this field. Cheers from soggy Sydney.http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12/chinese-2485-year-tree-ring-study-shows-shows-sun-controls-climate-temps-will-cool-til-2068/

Hector Pascal said @ February 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm

@The Pompous Git says:
Fair enough PG, I stand corrected, thanks. My CYA was that it was from memory, and it’s been more than 10 years since I read it. Lamb noted.
BTW, Grove goes back a lot further than the LIA where sources allow.

And thank you for the referral to Groves 🙂 So much to read and and so little time…

Evan Thomas said @ February 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I am a touch surprised that learned posters have not quoted from Jo Nova. Go to http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12-chinese-tree-ring-study-shows etc. A fascinating study of tibetan tree rings covering 2485 years with interesting comments on the methodology and significance. I look foreword to reading comments/critiques o experts in this field. Cheers from soggy Sydney.http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12/chinese-2485-year-tree-ring-study-shows-shows-sun-controls-climate-temps-will-cool-til-2068/

Thanks Evan; I’d forgotten about that post. Anyone else notice that there have been a lot more papers worth reading the last six months, or so? Your first link’s a dud BTW. And Jo kindly puts a tinyURL at the bottom of the post: http://tinyurl.com/c2f7cs4
I’m not an expert on treerings, so I will refrain from saying anything other than it certainly looks intriguing.

alan

“Islamic Golden Age”, PC science fiction!

One of the great achievements of Sadaam’s fall was the immediate restoration of much of the marshland he dried up to fight rebellion:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/martyrs-of-the-iraqi-marshes-1673421.html
–reversing one of the worst ecological catastrophes of all time.
And don’t forget, the B52 bombing of the first gulf war shook the ground and its archeological treasures worse than the bombardment of the second. It was the museums that suffered. –AGF