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Catastrophic 14th-century Climate Events May Foretell Bleak Future

Catastrophic 14th-century Climate Events May Foretell Bleak Future

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Sister institutes from Leipzig, Germany have just released a study that discloses important facts about major climate events that occurred during the 14th century AD.

Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) and the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) analyzed the available scientific and historical evidence, to learn more about how the climate was evolving at that time. They revealed in a press release that the extreme cold and heavy rainfall that caused massive crop failures and starvation in central Europe in the 1310s was preceded by a severe drought and accompanying heat wave, which bedeviled the region between the years 1304 and 1307.

The time period when both climate event disasters took place is significant. It marks the transition from the relatively high-temperature Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age, when glacial advancement and consistently low temperature readings irrevocably altered the climate of the Northern Hemisphere.

What makes the revelation about the drought that impacted northern Italy, southeastern France, and east-central Europe so fascinating is how it was discovered. Its existence was not revealed by climate scientists but by GWZO historians, who set about to prove that historical research could reveal vital and detailed information about climate events by tracing their impact on society.

2000+ year graph of global temperature including the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age and what might lie ahead in the way of climate events for the current human population of planet earth. (RCraig09 / CC BY-SA 4.0)

How Historians Found The 14th-century Climate Event

Studying written records preserved from the 14 th century, they found that Central Europe had been plagued by fires and reduced crop yields, as agriculture depended on enormous amounts of water during that time. Seen together, these conditions would be consistent with the onset of long-term drought. Further GWZO research confirmed that drought conditions were experienced in much of the Middle East during the same 14th-century period, indicating the global nature of the phenomenon.

“We want to show that historical climate change can be reconstructed much better if written historical sources are incorporated alongside climate archives like tree rings or sediment cores,” explained Dr. Martin Bauch, who led the GWZO team of researchers who participated in the new study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate of the Past. He added, “The inclusion of humanities research clearly contributes to a better understanding of the social consequences of climate change in the past, and to drawing conclusions for the future.”

Prolonged droughts are associated with stable weather patterns, as are extended periods of cold and rainy conditions such as those experienced throughout the 1310s. 

“This is usually caused by stable high and low pressure areas that remain in one region for an unusually long time,” said Dr. Patric Seifert, a meteorologist associated with TROPOS. “In 2018, for example, very stable lows lay over the North Atlantic and southern Europe for a long time, which led to heavy precipitation there and an extreme drought in between in Central Europe.” 

In reference to the 14th-century drought, TROPOS researchers believe a strong high-pressure system must have settled over central Europe in approximately 1303 and remained there until 1307, disrupting normal rainfall patterns and causing the severe heat wave that accompanied the lack of precipitation.

The frozen River Thames, London, 1677 AD: A climate event called the Little Ice Age made Central Europe a completely different place to live. (Abraham Hondius / Public domain)

How 14th-century Climate Change Relates To Today

Seifert’s reference to the drought that hit Central Europe in 2018 was by design. The working theory at TROPOS is that global climatological transitions like those experienced in the 14 th century, when the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age, caused shifts in the world’s weather patterns that produced more life-altering climatological anomalies.

“Even if it was a [natural] phase of cooling in the Middle Ages and we are now living in a phase of man-made warming, there could be parallels,” Seifert stated. “The transitional period between two climate phases could be characterized by smaller temperature differences between the latitudes and cause longer-lasting large-scale weather patterns, which could explain an increase in extreme events.”

Even in the past climate events had horrible side effects like drought, where everything dried up, crops failed, and livestock perished. This could also be our future! (Torychemistry / Adobe Stock)

Scientists studying climate change in the 21 st century have focused much attention on the rapid warming of the Arctic region, where temperatures have risen twice as fast as in other parts of the world. Research indicates that disproportionate warming in the Arctic changes circulation patterns in the atmosphere, reducing temperature differentials between the North Pole and the equator and thereby inhibiting the normal movement of high-pressure and low-pressure systems. This could result in more rigid, stable weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, like those that have caused prolonged droughts in Central Europe, Australia, and the American West in recent years.

If the parallels between then and now are accurate, it could portend the sudden onset of severe cold and rainy conditions in some areas that are now experiencing drought. The people of Central Europe and other regions experienced just such a whiplash effect in the 14 th century, when rapid climate change helped create the social, environmental, and economic disruptions that ultimately led to the Great Famine of 1315-1321 and the even more catastrophic Black Plague (1346-1353), which resulted in the loss of one-third of the European population.

If polar bears are already sad about global warming, imagine how we will feel when climate events over the long-term change everything we have ever taken to be normal. (Alexander / Adobe Stock)

Is This A Return To The Inferno?

The stormy and cold conditions and flooding that wrecked Europe’s agricultural economy in the 1310s have been given a curious name, the Dantean Anomaly, in honor of the Italian author, poet, and philosopher Dante Alighieri who lived during that period.

This climate event was named after the poet in part because the end of the terrible weather conditions and accompanying famine coincided with Dante’s death in 1321. But it was also during this time (in 1314) that Dante published his most famous work,  Inferno, which comprised the first section of his epic poem  The Divine Comedy. The  Inferno contained horrific imagery that may have been inspired by the catastrophic climatological events he witnessed during this tumultuous time in European and Italian history. 

In Dante’s third circle of hell, sinners were punished by being exposed to never-ending rain, hail, and snow, which left them stranded in a sea of mud from which there was no possibility of escape. This terrifying fate matched the real-world conditions that were experienced by the helpless and unfortunate farmers of Italy during that time, which strongly suggests that the  Inferno can be seen at least partially as an allegory based on a real-world climate event disaster.

Italy in the early 14 th century was a literal “Hell on Earth,” and perhaps Dante believed this was righteous punishment for the sins his society and its people had committed (however, Dante may have perceived them). 

In the present age, the relationship between negative climate events and our sins is clear. What is coming is a man-made disaster, and without dramatic action to reverse climate change the impact on human society may be much worse than what was experienced during the late Middle Ages, when a terrified and uncomprehending world was suddenly plunged into chaos by weather-related disasters.

Top image: Dried-up River Skirfare near Litton, North Yorkshire, England Source: Bernd Brueggemann / Adobe Stock

By Nathan Falde



T1bbst3r's picture

There's lots of technology in farming now which they never had in medieval times, fertilisers, pumping aquifers, pesticides and the like. I think I read that wheat production is 20 times that of a medieval farmer and there are no longer famines every 7 or so years.
Now, this climatic 'low pressure' thing seems a bit of a construct to me, it's just made up to explain something else, probably a stretching of weather conditions observed in the summer and not for years in a row.
Besides, the gulf stream drives the climate, causes high pressure and brings the rain, if they are going to come up with a theory to explain the weather pattern in the great famine, as with the one in the 1600s, they could at least use the most likely offender. If it's too hot, the rain goes further north etc.

Another climate catastrophist article from this history site. History tells us polar bears are fine with the current climate trajectory. History also tells us that this trajectory is not unusual. History tells us too that the peasant farmers of the Middle Ages did not have recourse to fossil fuels.

The history of these pages tells me that for every witch or wicker man burning article, there's another that tells us we're all going to burn in a Hell on Earth because of our wickedness in releasing carbon dioxide; that non-toxic life-giving gas that does not wreck the climate, but arguably stabilises it by greening the planet, and which was historically in much higher concentrations for much of the Earth's history of abundant life.

Half of this article related to history.

The other half was hysterical,.

As such it is unimportant in itself, yet as part of a bigger picture, just another small insecure step in millions towards the security of the modern equivalent of burning a herbal healer as a witch, because of a skin condition, in order to save us all from Hell.

It seems some don't always want to learn from history, even though they write about it.

Hi All,

It was more than five years ago that I learned of The Great Famine in Europe thought to be caused by a Mini-Ice Age apparently it got so bad people resorted to Cannibalism.

I remember thinking so that's where The Brothers Grimm; got the story of Hansel and Gretel there were probably hundreds of Hansel and Gretel like stories all over Europe during The Mini-Ice Age.

After observing The 14th Century I couldn't believe how rapidly That era disintegrated 1st Famine & Drought 1315-1320, Social Economic problems began plaguing the people trying to make Ends Meet under the tulage of Feudalism 1320-1330.

The Hundred Year War began in 1330, I understand The Black Prince of Wales; achieved, quite the Military victory over France in Battle of Portiers, 1338.

Then the horrid Black Death that struck The Globe although, I'm uncertain if Mesoamerica experienced The Black Death.

Upon the arrival of Europeans too The New World diseases that wiped the Indigenous Peoples are the following Four...

1. Chicken Pox
2. Measles
3. Smallpox &
4. Syphilis

No record of the Black Death at least not yet. Unless the Plague that wiped out Squanto's People was The Black Death.

Know wonder the people in Medieval Europe believed that
The Apocalypse was upon them.

I think that despite growing information about the consequences of Climate Change People are Creatures of Habit they aren't going to change even if The World itself was coming to The End.

That reminds me from my perspective I know Science avoids this Subject like the plague but I believe that Climate Change research could go all the way back in Eden.

To me Eden is the link to understanding Climate Change. Why?

Because the equation of Death was added to the mix when Adam and Eve broke the one Rule and ate of the forbidden Tree.
I'll leave this point of the discussion as is.

It's amazing to me but, I don't think that Biblical Scholars or Theologians themselves; has ever really took the time to examine this Period made known in Genesis & Lesser Genesis Jubilees.

It's the reason why I feel Climate Changed at that moment in Time.

I think the Climate Scales could be used to measure that poignant moment from The Bible.

I learned two weeks back that some Scientist working in Africa on Mt. Kilimanjaro has found that Biblical Joseph; who saved The World from utter devastation and starvation has been proven accurate with a series of test atop Kilimanjaro.

It was Climate Scientist that found the evidence it was a shock because The Scientist weren't looking for that Great Famine told in The Bible they were researching something else because of Climate Change.

This is where I'll end the discussion I've run out if things too address; this was a great article, so until next time, Everyone, Goodbye!

Nathan Falde's picture


Nathan Falde graduated from American Public University in 2010 with a Bachelors Degree in History, and has a long-standing fascination with ancient history, historical mysteries, mythology, astronomy and esoteric topics of all types. He is a full-time freelance writer from... Read More

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