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No. 122: Mar-Apr 1999

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El Nino -- Bueno?

Despite our recent experience, El Ninos have not been all bad. All around the Pacific Basin, scientists have been collecting evidence that, between 12,000 and 5,000 years ago, El Nino was virtually nonexistent and that its reappearance coincided with great cultural changes.

To illustrate, coral records from the western Pacific and sediments in the Great Lakes indicate that El Nino was going strong before 12,000 BP, but then there was an unexplained, 7,000-year lull. This lull is also seen clearly in sediments in Laguna Pallcacocha, a lake in the Andes of southern Ecuador, so is El Nino's sudden resurgence around 5,000 BP.

This resurgence and the associated worldwide climatic turmoil also marks the emergence of complex societies all over the planet. The Egyptians built pyramids, the Peruvians constructed temple mounds, civilizations rose and collapsed in the Middle East, and settled agrarian societies developed in many locations. Although not all cultures responded well to the climate changes, El Nino seems to have sparked the rise of modern civilizations. We are assuming that this was good!

(Kerr, Richard A.; "El Nino Grew Strong As Cultures Were Born," Science, 283:467, 1999. Sandweiss, Daniel H., et al; "Transitions in the Mid-Holocene," Science, 283:499, 1999.)

Comment. Wasn't that period of Global Warming between 12,000 and 5,000 BP the Golden Age when Atlantis throve, when Antarctica was ice-free, when the Sphinx was really built, and when the Garden of Eden was sinless?

From Science Frontiers #122, MAR-APR 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss