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Enviro Warrior - Wake up and smell the Homus ... then tread lightly upon the planet.

 

El Nino - A Review.

ISBN : 0-340-72838-8

"A man is bitten by a rattle snake in Montana. A hurricane rips through Mexico. A turtle lays an early egg on a Pacific Island. An epidemic of Rift Valley fever breaks out in Kenya. At last the conductor that has been orchestrating these, and thousands of other seemingly random incidents, throughout history, has finally been unmasked. His name is El Nino."

~Ross Couper-Johnston.



Going to school in a generation that hadn’t yet figured out, or named the cycle of drought and floods, feast and famine - I see that now they have been named - El Nino (and his sister La Nina), are readily blamed for every bad weather anomaly on the planet. I wanted to learn more, seek out facts from the media fiction, and so, hunted down a good book on the subject, careful to find one with as much truth and scientific fact as possible; without pages of technical data and too much scientific jargon ... (I didn't want to have to become a scientist to read it).

What I didn’t bargain for was the immense pleasure I would get in reading this book, presented in a dual form, to include many surprises as it pieces together an amazing jigsaw of detailed historical perspective, and why I have to comment on Ross Couper-Johnston’s outstanding approach to this subject in his book, El Nino.

Captain Scott and his team
From the start El Nino (the book) enters from the perspective of history, outlining clearly the revolutionary importance El Nino (the phenomenon), has had in changing the very fabric of history – levelling empires, rulers and civilisations alike – creating the world we now call ours.

From the El Nino of 1912 which bought icebergs further south than normal, partly the cause of the sinking of the Titanic, as well as the death of Captain Scott and his team in the south pole; El Nino has roared through history from the great famine in northern China in 1877-8; to the coldest temperatures for over two hundred years during the winter of 1941-2, completely debilitating Hitler’s troops in Russia.

In fact, by the time you finish this book and get to the monsoon rains that came to China in 1879, you’ll discover amazing facts, like during the reign of Shanxi Governor, Tseng Kuochuan, between 9 and 13 million people had died, and another 70 million affected in what is possibly the severest El Nino in history. You’ll be amazed at the global connection, and that El Nino is not a predictable event, but more or less random within a type-of cycle. (See El Nino chronology below).

1982-3 - Melbourne Engulfed in Dust Storm
As Couper-Johnston puts it, ‘…like a mythological beast that slumbers in its lair, emerging only to feed its voracious appetite. El Nino sleeps, but never dies.’ Indeed as you read on - through a book deliciously arranged in a logical (easy-to-follow) historical timeline of occurrences - you can see that El Nino is not a discriminate beast, and sups anywhere and everywhere.

The name El Nino was, of course, given to the change in weather by Spanish fishermen who earning their living from the sea, named it an uncontrollable little ‘child,’ or El Nino. El Nino’s sister, La Nina, being the teary companion and mirror of the two, causing the monsoons and flooding, usually following the long temper tantrums of her brother (much like Australia today, as we experience a La Nina period).

I could go on and talk about how the book reveals how El Nino supported the Christian Zealots of the Fourth Crusade. How, weakened by famine as a result, Egypt presented a unique opportunity to capture a cornerstone in the Islamic empire, a conquest likely to force the cession of Jerusalem.

Of how records during the 1200-1 El Nino event, outline a time when cannibalism became so rampant an event throughout India and Central China, word reached as far north as Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi in Iraq, who when hearing of the emigrations from the Nile valley to Arabia, Yemen and Syria, travelled there to see for himself first hand the conditions. He records that over 110,00 corpses where found about the city there and that it provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to undertake certain medical experiments, relaxing the Islamic law forbidding the dissection of human bodies.

1982-3 Ash Wednesday Fires
Yellow Fever, Dhengi fever, plagues, floods and famine across Europe, frozen winter death grips throughout Russia; the end of a Mayan civilisation due to the seas no longer bringing its abundance of plankton, fish and favourable trade winds … In fact, no matter where you look in history to where it has changed dramatically, you’ll find El Nino stamping his foot and holding his breath… leaving a trail of devastation, corpses and heartache across epochs.

Thermal image of El Nino event
The big-picture, historical details of this book, are tempered nicely by scientific evidence and research, which is both sound and sharp. The chapters dedicated to the exploration and Physical Process of an El Nino, are riveting. I did not get lost in the various scientific explanations or needless jargon, and found the whole experience a wonderfully comprehensive, up-to-date, impartial ‘download’ on the subject ... at times I felt like I was out in the ocean exploring along with the scientists ... who also ask the question of how climate change impacts on El Nino, if at all?

The research is remarkable and the unique presentation of this phenomena fascinating in dual form, and I found it enormously satisfying for the historian, scientist and environmentalist lurking within, and recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning more about this penomenon.


El Nino Chronology.

1525-26
1531-32
1535
1539-41
1544
1546-47
1552-53
1558-61
1565
1567-68
1574
1578-79
1581-82
1585
1587-89
1589-91
1581-82
1585
1587-89
1589-91
1596

1600-01
1604
1607-08
1618-19
1621
1624
1630-31
1635
1641
1646-7
1650
1652
1655
1661
1671
1681
1683-84
1687-88
1692
1694-95
1697

1701
1703-04
1707-09
1713-14
1715-16
1718
1720
1723
1725
1728
1731
1734
1737
1744
1747-48
1751
1754-55
1761-62
1765-66
1768-69
1769-70
1772-43
1776-78
1782-84
1785-86
1790-93
1794-97
1799

1802-04
1806-07
1810
1812
1814
1817
1819
1821
1824-25
1827-28
1830
1832-33
1935-36
1837-39
1844-46
1850
1852-53
1854-55
1857-59
1860
1862
1864
1865-66
1867-69
1877-78
1880
1865
1888-89
1891
1896-97
1899-1900

1902-03
1905-06
1911-12
1914-15
1918-19
1925-26
1930-31
1939-41
1957-58
1963
1965-66
1969
1972-73
1976-77
1982-83
1986-87
1991-95
1997-98

2003-04
2006-07


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Comments
19 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]
1. February 25th 2008 @ 10:55. MelissaA Says:
Wow! I didn't realise they'd been able to 'track' it from so far back! Not bad!
2. February 25th 2008 @ 22:00. Ash Says:
This sounds like a great read Lilla

Even just for the historical information it contains. I must admit it has been a term thrown around that I hav`nt really taken the time to understand in too much detail myself. A very interesting phenomenon and one I shall have to look out for

Ash
3. February 26th 2008 @ 00:14. Lilla Says:
Hi Melissa,

You bet, me either. As I said, not knowing much about this phenomenon before I got this book, it was a real eye opener for me - primarily becuase I am such a history buff and love science ... but I had never been able to put the two together into a coherent truth. I had no idea that El Nino hid so well behind both disciplines ...

Another wholesome reminder that truth is often weirder than fiction ...

Nice to see you again

Lilla ...
4. February 26th 2008 @ 00:36. Lilla Says:
Ash,

I truly hope you manage to track this one down - perhaps for your flight?

A seamless fascinating read and if you love history as much as science ... un-put-downable!

Lilla ...xxx

PS Looking forward to Saturday
5. February 26th 2008 @ 02:05. Rosemary Says:
Sounds good. Might have to track it down.
6. February 26th 2008 @ 04:10. Miswanderlust Says:
Lilla
Sooooooo interesting. I did not realize the long and illustrious history. Fabulous post friend!
Mis
7. February 26th 2008 @ 05:02. Lilla Says:
Rosemary,

Thanks. You will not be dissapointed if you do.

Cheers,

Lilla ...
8. February 26th 2008 @ 21:57. Lilla Says:
Thank you MIs,

Interesting indeed. Glad to be able to recommend it to someone who will appreciate it as much as me. It truly is a page turner for those who find history interesting. As I said, his research is absolutely astounding!

Going to check out your New Blog (?) I noticed yesterday ???

I love a mystery ...

Lilla ...
9. February 27th 2008 @ 02:50. Miswanderlust Says:
Hiya Lilla
I am looking for the book to give it a read. I am working on my first post for my "new" blog. Orble asked me to move Ramble On over to a .com or .net so I am taking over the Killer Beats and I am putting my music posts there and keeping Ramble on for more personal stuff.
Mis
Thanks for finding me
10. February 27th 2008 @ 03:54. Louie Says:
wow i had no idea El Nino was so old, i thought he was a baby, born n our times......cool post, as always....might ave to read the book too
11. February 27th 2008 @ 04:22. Lilla Says:
Hi Mis,

I look forward to the renovations, changes and new material!

Lilla ...

12. February 27th 2008 @ 04:25. Lilla Says:
Hi Louie,

That is exactly what struck me first ... and then to have it laid out in an historical timeline ... oh such joy... it affected me just like a hurricane.

Indeed, it seems this is an old man masquerading as a young one, if seen at all, over all these millennia ... who knows and probably beyond.

What is scary is that climate change is impacting on him and his temper tantrums are becoming more servere and swinging wider and wider, lasting longer and longer.

We may be making a frail monster even sicker it seems, not all the evidence is in yet on that score though?

Lilla ...
13. March 4th 2008 @ 01:54. KylieW Says:
Oh that really does sound like a great read. I might have to check it out. Amazing that they've been able to document El Nino so far back!
14. March 4th 2008 @ 08:00. Lilla Says:
Thanks Kylie,

You won't be dissapointed in this one, especially if you like history and science in one package.

I hope those blisters have all healed...

...any word on the final tally?

Lilla ...
15. July 14th 2008 @ 21:45. ZZMike Says:
I saw a museum exhibit on Chinese history over the weekend. At one point they mentioned "the 3-year el Nino of 600 - 650" (evidently some time during those years).

Does anybody know of any el Nino events before 1525?
16. July 16th 2008 @ 00:36. Lilla Says:
Hi ZZMike,

I can't recommend anything for you to read about previous El Nino's, but have no doubts they were as prevelant.

Perhaps the library, or a general Bolean Google of "El Nino" & "600AD" might yield results?

There is a great book which covers the period around 535AD when we had a nuclear-type winter ... very interesting.

By David Keys called Catastrophe : An Investigation into the origins of the Modern World.

ISBN 0-09-940984-4 (Random House, Arrow Books) London 1999

Good luck with your search and thanks for the comment.

Lilla ...
17. July 22nd 2008 @ 23:44. ZZMike Says:
Thanks, Lilla. That got me a note about the fall of Moche, in Peru, some time around 500 - 600 AD.

Another thanks for the Davi Keys book link. A comment in one of the Amazon reviews talks about a world-wide catastrophe in 535. (Just as an aside, I don't think Man had anything to do with that one.)

There was a giant tsunami in the early 1400s, that wiped out a lot of cities, and most of the Chinese fleet (some ship ruins were found in New Zealand). The leading possibility is that it was caused by a large meteorite or comet. After that, the Chinese sent out no more fleets.

Search for "mahuika crater" (or "mahuika event").
18. July 25th 2008 @ 00:38. Lilla Says:
HI again ZMike,

My pleasure, and you are right about it not being man-made... but I wont spoil the fun of your discvoery, except to say that the 535AD event is very significant to today's world as we know it as it allowed the rise of Islam and was the final straw on the camels back of the Grand Roman Empire... which fell like a house of cards at this time.

Thanks for the links on the Chinese Tsunami... I have often wondered about it and looked for more information.

Much appreciated.

Lilla ...
19. November 10th 2010 @ 13:25. Anonymous Says:
diz bit fye

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