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Archive for the ‘human impact’ Category

‘Google Civilization’ Collapsing from Disinformation

Posted by feww on March 30, 2010

Suppression of evolution through disinformation

When will the combined impact of the following factors cause the collapse of Google-cum-Facebook civilization?

  • Pillage of natural resources
  • Hyperactivity by energy dinosaurs,
  • Climate change
  • Spread of disease
  • Drought and deluge
  • Food shortages
  • Empire-building wars
  • Suppression of evolution through disinformation
  • Capitalism
  • Exponential growth economy
  • Other mechanisms

As for the Angkor civilization …

The Earth Institute at Columbia University (EICU) believes they may have the answer to at least one part of that question. Drought and deluge seem to have driven the ancient Khmer civilization to collapse.

Kudos to EICU for identifying at least one of the probable causes of collapse of the ancient Khmer Empire. And we are convinced they can do a lot more to explore  the role of the above-mentioned factors in the looming collapse.

The following is a public release by the EICU:

Did climate influence Angkor’s collapse?

Evidence suggests changing environment can bring down a civilization

Decades of drought, interspersed with intense monsoon rains, may have helped bring about the fall of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization at Angkor nearly 600 years ago, according to an analysis of tree rings, archeological remains and other evidence. The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may also shed light on what drives—and disrupts—the rainy season across much of Asia, which waters crops for nearly half the world’s population.


The temple of Angkor Wat, Cambodia (aerial photo). The religious complex of Angkor Wat was center of a civilization that depended for irrigation on a vast network of canals, embankments and reservoirs. Credit: Charles J Sharp

Historians have offered various explanations for the fall of an empire that stretched across much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries, from deforestation to conflict with rival kingdoms. But the new study offers the strongest evidence yet that two severe droughts, punctuated by bouts of heavy monsoon rain, may have weakened the empire by shrinking water supplies for drinking and agriculture, and damaging Angkor’s vast irrigation system, which was central to its economy. The kingdom is thought to have collapsed in 1431 after a raid by the Siamese from present-day Thailand. The carved stone temples of its religious center, Angkor Wat, are today a major tourist destination, but much of the rest of the civilization has sunk back into the landscape.

“Angkor at that time faced a number of problems—social, political and cultural. Environmental change pushed the ancient Khmers to the limit and they weren’t able to adapt,” said the study’s lead author, Brendan Buckley, a climate scientist and tree-ring specialist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “I wouldn’t say climate caused the collapse, but a 30-year drought had to have had an impact.”

Scientists led by Buckley were able to reconstruct 759 years of past climate in the region surrounding Angkor by studying the annual growth rings of a cypress tree, Fokienia hodginsii, growing in the highlands of Vietnam’s Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, about 700 kilometers away. By hiking high into the mountain cloud forests, the researchers were able to find rare specimens over 1,000 years old that had not been touched by loggers. After extracting tiny cores of wood showing the trees’ annual growth rings, researchers reconstructed year-to-year moisture levels in this part of Southeast Asia from 1250 to 2008. The tree rings revealed evidence of a mega-drought lasting three decades—from the 1330s to 1360s– followed by a more severe but shorter drought from the 1400s to 1420s. Written records corroborate the latter drought, which may have been felt as far away as Sri Lanka and central China.

The droughts may have been devastating for a civilization dependent on farming and an irrigation system of reservoirs, canals and embankments sprawling across more than a thousand square kilometers. The droughts could have led to crop failure and a rise in infectious disease, and both problems would have been exacerbated by the density of the population, Buckley says.

The study also finds that the droughts were punctuated by several extraordinarily intense rainy seasons that may have damaged Angkor’s hydraulic system. During a normal monsoon season, Angkor’s hydraulic network could have handled heavy downpours, but after extended droughts, the system may have been vulnerable to massive siltation and clogging, the study suggests. Layers of coarse debris and other sediments found blocking some canals appear to have been laid down suddenly. In other spots, apparently sudden erosion cut canals as much as 8 meters below the surrounding landscape, potentially destabilizing the hydraulic system. Archeologists have found additional evidence that canals were rebuilt and rerouted to cope with water shortages.

In compiling the longest tropical tree ring record to date, researchers found that the third-driest, and the driest, years in the last 760 years occurred back to back in 1402 and 1403, about three decades before Angkor’s fall. The second driest was 1888, which coincided with the 1888-1889 El Niño, a cyclical warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean. By correlating known El Niño cycles measured with modern instruments, researchers have documented how the cyclical warming and cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean brings rain to some places and drought to others. The authors of the current study and other researchers suggest that El Niño, possibly abetted by longer, decades-long cycles across the Pacific basin, may have played an important role in shutting down the monsoon rains in this region, creating withering droughts in the past. Some scientists suspect that warming of the global climate may intensify these cycles in the future, raising the possibility of alternating Angkor-like droughts and destructive floods that could affect billions of people.

Similar studies suggest that abrupt environmental changes may have pushed other ancient civilizations over the edge, including the Anasazi people of the southwestern United States; the Maya people of Central America, and the Akkadian people of Mesopotamia. There is some evidence that other once-powerful kingdoms in what is now Vietnam and Myanmar may have fallen during the late 1700s, following extreme dry and wet periods.

“Both human society and the erth’s climate system are complex systems capable of unexpected behavior. Through the long-term perspective offered by climate and archaeological records, we can start to identify and understand the myriad ways they may interact,” said study coauthor Kevin Anchukaitis, a tree ring scientist at Lamont. “The evidence from monsoon Asia should remind us that complex civilizations are still quite vulnerable to climate variability and change.”

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Related link: An audio slideshow follows the researchers in their search for ancient trees to unlock the workings of the Asian monsoon.

http://www.earth.columbia.edu/videos/watch/108

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Posted in Angkor civilization, capitalism, collapse, drought and deluge, human impact | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

SW China on the precipice of catastrophe

Posted by feww on March 20, 2010

Worst Ever Drought in SW China is Getting Even Worse!

The numbers of people and livestock short of drinking water in SW China have risen from 11 million and 2 million respectively just 5 days ago to more that 20 million people and 12 million  livestock today.

The deadly drought is now spreading to other parts of China including the northwest, north and northeast China.

Up to 60 million people throughout  China are now affected by severe drought, and experts say it can only get worse.


A massive dust storm swept across eastern China on March 12, 2010. The dust appears to have been transported by winds from the west, which is consistent with soil erosion caused by the drought. Source NASA. Click image to enlarge.

Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in south China, one of the country’s poorest areas is suffering its worst drought in 58 years ever, with only 2.2 mm of rain since October 2009, People’s Daily reported.

“Since last September, rainfall in Guangxi, as well as neighboring Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, has fallen to the lowest levels since 1952, said the China Meteorological Administration. Coupled with persistent high temperatures, the lack of rain has resulted in a severe drought that is affecting about 11 million people.”

That report was released 5 days ago. The ongoing drought, which has lasted 3 harvests, has affected more than 6.5 million hectares of farmland across the country, today’s media report said.

“Relief work is becoming difficult because the dry conditions have lasted for such a long time, reducing available water sources.”

“Southwest China is facing the most severe situation. Nearly 90 per cent of China’s drought-affected farmland is in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan and Chongqing. And more than half of that is in Yunnan province.” Zhang Xu, Dep. Director-General of Drough Relief HQ, was reported as saying.

“We should detail a water supply plan, consolidate water management, economize our use of water, and use every method to ensure water supply.”


Farmers in China’s Yunnan province face a bleak future, if the drought continues. Image captured from CCTV news. Image may be subject to copyright. Click image to enlarge.

The drought has affected the last three harvest seasons. Experts say the hot and dry weather will continue in southwest China for the foreseeable future.

These conditions in the region are described as the “worst  in a century.” But no one really knows how bad the worst conditions might have been then.

The government is urging people to use water sparingly. The irony of it being that there is NO water to use, sparingly or not. The authorities were also quoted as saying that the “choice of whether to use water for people or farming is becoming more difficult.”

Surely, someone must have mistranslated that last line. They couldn’t possibly have meant that. Could they?

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Posted in Drought, drought and deluge, human impact, severe drought, Sichuan drought | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

More Droughts in 2009

Posted by feww on February 25, 2009

Argentina’s 2009 crop production was 40-70 lower than in 2008, depending on the crop

Drought in Argentina


NASA Earth Observatory Image: acquired February 23, 2009


NASA Earth Observatory Image: acquired February 22, 2008

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) reported a severe drought in southern South America, which had severely affected corn, cotton, and soybean crops in Argentina. Total rainfall since December was far below normal in most areas, and the rain that did fall often did not coincide with key points in crops’ growing cycles. Dust storms occurred in January and again in February, despite some late-to-arrive rains.

[NOTE: Dust storms destroy topsoil and accelerate land erosion. According to estimates made by our colleagues at EDRO, by 2012 critically low levels of top soil will have been reached at which point significant crop failures would occur worldwide.]

This pair of natural-color (photo-like) images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite contrasts 2009 conditions (top) in southern Buenos Aires province with the conditions in 2008 (bottom), a more normal year. The province is one of the country’s major corn-growing areas. The difference in overall greenness is dramatic. In 2008, the area was a checkerboard of lush green, a sign that crops were healthy. In the 2009 image, the landscape was pale green and tan, reflecting the struggle that natural and cultivated vegetation was having with the hot, dry summer.

FAS analyst Denise McWilliams said 2009 crop production was 30-60 percent of what it was in 2008, depending on the crop. Drought stress made the corn crop susceptible to insect pests, and in some fields, farmers simply baled the stunted corn crop for use as livestock forage. Likewise, extreme heat and drought struck the season’s first soybean crop during its flowering and seed pod development phase. Meanwhile, the drought and heat caused wide differences in the height and maturity level of cotton crops, even within the same field, which was expected to complicate the harvest.

References:

  • USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Office of Global Analysis. (2009, February). World Agricultural Production. (pdf) Accessed February 23, 2009.

NASA images by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey [with minor editions made by FEWW], with input provided Denise McWilliams, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Instrument:  Terra – MODIS

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Posted in anthropogenic CO2, Climate Change, crop failure, Dust storms, human impact | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The world’s largest food fishery faces collapse

Posted by edro on October 11, 2008

Pollock population declined by 50 percent last Year

The world’s largest food fishery is on the verge of collapse. Pollock, used to make McDonald’s fish sandwiches, frozen fish sticks, fish and chips, and imitation crabmeat, have had a population decrease of 50 percent since last year. —Greenpeace.

Pollock biomass in U.S. waters have declined by  nearly a million ton (to 0.94 million ton) from 1.8 million tons last year, said Taina Honkalehto, a research fishery biologist with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.

“Economic pressures to keep on fishing at such high levels have overwhelmed common sense,” said Jeremy Jackson, director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Two of the four Alaska pollock stocks are now shut down completely and a third is a small fraction of its previous size due to overfishing. However, the industry continues to aggresively target the pollock spawning aggregation, removing large numbers of pregnant fish before they release their eggs. Thus, the pollock is prevented to reproduce, grow and mature to reproduce again, Greenpeace said.

More …

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    Posted in Bering Sea Ecosystem, environment, food, human impact, overfishing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »