January 5th

On January 5th, 1709, a great cold came to Europe. People could not stay warm, and even huddled near a fire they wrote their accounts with shaking fingers. Livestock died in their sleep, chickens suffered frost bite. Winter wheat crops failed. Fruit trees and olive trees died. People died on the side of the roads. Shipments of food stopped coming into the major cities. The resulting starvation killed at least 600,000 people, although estimates of a million are more reasonable. The winter of 1709, according to scientist Jürg Luterbacher, was seven degrees lower than the current average temperature.

Another scientist, Jason Head, has dug up the skeleton of a huge snake in Columbia. The snake was about 40 feet long and weighed 2,000 pounds. Snakes growth is limited by global temperature, and the scientists number crunching determined that the temperature in Colombia would have had to be seven degrees higher than the current average temperature.

These two facts were published in the New Scientist, thirty pages apart, in 2009.


How do you feel about olive trees? About plum trees?

How do you feel about giant snakes the size of a semi-truck?

Things to consider.

Giant snake offers a glimpse of future warming. (2009). New Scientist, 201(2694), 16.

Pain, S. (2009). The year that Europe froze solid. New Scientist, 201(2694), 46.


*Composed January 5th, 2015.

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