Social Impact of Historic Climate Change

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Did you ever wonder what it was like during the Mini Ice Age from 1300 to 1850? It was a time of rapid cooling following the Warm Mediaeval Period. In the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze. This allowed people to walk from Manhattan Island to Staten Island. The broader social impacts included the invention of buttons and button holes, and extensive food riots. Londoners held intermittent winter ‘Frost Fairs’ on the Thames River between the 17th and early 19th centuries

Positive and Negative Social Impacts of the Mini Ice Age

social impacts

Little Ice Age: Global Warming Arts: CC 3.0

The wood was denser in forest trees in Europe, enabling Antonio Stradivari to craft his superb violins. By stark contrast, Alpine villagers lived on bread made from ground nutshells mixed with barley and oat flour. Widespread crop failures spawned intensive witch-hunting campaigns.

Moving fast forward, a paleo-climatologist at Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature is digging into Japan’s social past. Reporter Rachel Nuver describes how Takeshi Nakatsuka and 68 collaborators are using trees to reveal historic rainfall patterns.

Nakatsuka and his colleagues have managed to ‘tease’ information out of preserved cedar wood in ancient forests. They have produced a 2,500 year record of rainfall patterns in Japan, and related these to social impacts.

The Secrets Hidden in Japan’s Venerable Hinoki Cyprus Trees

social impacts

1000-Year-Old Hinoki Wood: Zepfanman.Com: CC 2.0

They have noticed the amount of rainfall becomes ‘extremely variable for a period’ once about every 400 years. In this way, they have seen their nation ‘toggle’ between ‘multi-decadal bouts of flood-inducing wetness and warmer, drier years’.  Moreover the latter were favorable for rice cultivation. And so Japanese society suffered or prospered according to these social impacts.

Takeshi Nakatsuka and his team having been using isotope ratios contained within wood to estimate rainfall patterns. Central Japan’s long-lived Hinoki Cyprus Trees are the perfect subjects because their wood is so dense. The oldest have been living for 1,000 years. More ancient samples come from buried logs, wooden temples, and coffin boards.


Our Brains Block Us on Climate Change

Lancet 2018 Health and Climate Report

Preview Image: Thames Frost Fair, 1683–84

See News Report for More Social Impacts


About Author


I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will not deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time. My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast. I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned. Richard Farrell

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