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Is it Hot Enough For You?


Michele Dutcher

ďIs it hot enough for you?Ē

I probably donít need to tell anyone living on the North American continent - but the summer so far has been oppressive.  With temperatures in June and July soaring past 100 many are wondering what is going on.  Actually, out of the hottest summers in the last 200 years, 14 have occurred in the last 15 years. 

If our climate is changing, and most scientists agree that it is, what can our civilization expect as a result? Many  cultures  have risen and fallen due to climate change. One of the most obvious examples is change in the Sahara.

About 12,000 years ago, slight changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun brought the northern hemisphere into the limelight. Summers became warmer as more solar radiation hit the lands north of the Equator. Solar 'insolation' levels were up to 8 percent higher than today. 

With insolation driving monsoonal climates like a huge heat engine, rainfall increased. One climate model estimated that the 8 percent increase in radiation in North Africa resulted in a 40 percent increase in precipitation. Today, the West African monsoon avoids the Sahara, passing further south. But as the Earth's orbit changed the rains intensified and shifted five degrees north. Slowly the desert started to bloom. By 10,000 years ago, the Sahara had turned into a savanna-like ecosytem with trees and grass and grazing aninmals.


Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem of a traveler who discovers a once majestic statue of Ozymandias in the sands of the Sahara could be an ode to climate change.  Gone were the ruler's subjects, fertile fields, and flocks. Now, due to climate change, this lone statue was the ruler of only shifting sands.

Between 300 B.C. and A.D. 1100, the Tiwanaku (culture in South America) built an urban complex that probably supported nearly half a million people. They sustained this dense settlement through raised field agriculture, a technique that improved drainage and recycled nutrients in the poor tropical soil.

Around the year 1100, the cities and fields were abruptly abandoned.

Once again, the paleoclimate record may contain clues to the Tiwanaku collapse.

The Quelccaya ice core, drilled just 125 miles from Lake Titicaca, contains an annual record of precipitation for the region. This ice core record shows close overlap between the time of the Tiwanaku abandonment and the start of an increasingly dry spell. Sediment cores from Lake Titicaca itself also chronicle the event, showing a 33-foot drop in the lake level at the time. The drought persisted for several centuries, during which the Tiwanaku went into a slow decline.


Today, every known glacier in the tropics is retreating. They are melting at a rate of 15 feet a year. Itís likely that the ice caps in Africa and South America will be gone in 15 years.

The changes in glacial ice are harbingers of immense global warming to come.

While culture decimation caused by climate change may be bad for the civilizations involved, it can make for a good story whether the apocalypse occurs in continents here on Earth, or on a planet elsewhere in the galaxy Ė for example, the Star Trek classic: The Wrath of Khan.

The Ďsecret technologyí of ancient civilizations that were brought to ruin by climate change is the bedrock of SciFi and Fantasy writers alike.

We invite you to sit back under your air conditioner this August and  relax while reading these very cool short stories.

2012-08-14 17:01:21
GordonRowlinson - In my opinion, there will not be any immediate action on Climate Change. Any action will involve sacrifice and will have an economic impact. For the US public to accept sacrifice, the effects of Climate Change must be apparent-which we are starting to see. July was the hottest month on record in the US and we are seeing more and more extreme weather events. Hopefully we will solve this problem before we turn our planet into the setting of a SciFi novel.

2012-08-12 09:47:22
micheledutcher - I looked up Gonur-Depe in Wiki, interesting. There is also a ceremonial center in Turkey that they have dated to 10,000 BC. I'll try to find and put up the link sometime tomorrow.

2012-08-10 09:54:06
The weather in Taiwan(Southeast Asia) is now unpredictable,sunny at morning, rainy at afternoon. Hope our earth can behave better.

2012-08-04 02:52:24
mark211 - (Excuse the cut and paste error at the end there!)

2012-08-03 07:12:45
mark211 - Thanks for a stimulating and thought-provoking editorial. Itís always timely to be reminded that plots are driven by natural forces of one sort or another intruding on the plans of mice and men. The fact that fantasy might often literally embody these forces in the shape of a balrog, a demon or a dark and powerful wizard doesnít take away from the fact that the lives of the characters are thrown into chaos and I guess on one level you could say that all stories involve following the fates of the characters on their fall back down. And the fate of a declining civilization has the same fascinating horror as watching the Titanic going down. Not to brag, but one of the most amazing things Iíve ever seen was the remarkably well-preserved ruins of the city of Gonur-Depe in Turkmenistan. It had once been the centre of a powerful civilisation, a regional equal to Uruk or Hattusa. But it eventually fell into ruin, one of the reasons being the river that gave it life dried up. They staved off the inevitable by creating huge water reservoirs but I guess in the end it was more trouble than it was worth and the place had to be abandoned. Iíll never forget seeing the top of the white skull of a child embedded into the boundary walls by the cities main gate. Whether the child had been sacrificed for the purpose I donít know but apparently the walls were filled with the skeletons of young children. Quite how the people of Gonur-Depe thought this would ward off evil I donít know but it was quite mad all the same. Like you say, thereís a lot of rich story material out there if we look at history and even just at whatís going on now. I was in Turkmenistan a few years back and while I was there I got to visit Gonur Depe. It was an ancient capital that had once been the rival of Uruk or Hattusa. It was thought that one reason that it was eventually abandoned was because, over the course of many years, the river that supplied the city began to change course. Their attempts to redirect the flow of the river back towards the city ironically

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