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Climate History:
Exploring Climate Events and Human Development
Photo of Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde, Colorado

Does climate impact human activity and culture? Does human activity and culture impact climate?
The answer according to most scientists is a qualified yes to both questions. Homo sapiens have for at least 100,000 years learned-- often the hard way-- how to adapt to changes in climate. Our actions, whether changing land cover through agriculture and deforestation or altering the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, appears to affect climate processes, although exactly how and to what extent is a subject of considerable debate.

Using the "powers of ten" to frame particular time scales, Climate History looks at the past 100,000 years of human existence and explores specific climate events which may have challenged or changed human activities.
This chart provides an overview of human developments over the past 100,000 years.
100,000 B.P.
90,000 B.P.
80,000 B.P.
70,000 B.P.
60,000 B.P.
50,000 B.P.
40,000 B.P.
30,000 B.P.
20,000 B.P.
10,000 B.P.
End of Pleistocene Early Homo sapiens diet includes fish and seafood
Recent discoveries in caves along the South African coast dating to 70,000 years before present suggest people using bone tools and living on fish and mammals in the region.
Large scale extinctions of mammals and birds in Australia Cave paintings, stone and bone tools in much of Europe Cro-Magnons thrive in cold European climate... but not for long.

Global temperature averages 14 degrees F cooler than today.

Estimated 5 million Homo sapiens on planet. Megafauna extinctions in North America

Past 10,000 Years

10,000 B.P.
9,000 BP
8,000 BP
7,000 BP
6,000 BP
5,000 BP
4,000 BP
3,000 BP
2,000 BP
1,000 BP
Developments in Agriculture & Technology

First evidence of plant domestication. Enhanced monsoons 10K to 6K: wetter N. Africa, drier central N. America.

Flax in Syria and Turkey used for clothing (linen) and oil. Beans used in eastern Mediterranean Zea mays, squash, beans and peppers used in Americas Cotton grown in Pakistan, cultivated grapes in Afghanistan Soybeans, rice, wheat, barley and millet used in China Olives, peaches and apricots cultivated in eastern Mediterranean

Phoenicians sail in the Mediterranean, while Polynesians sail the Pacific.


Sailors discover how to use monsoon patterns to their advantage.

254-345 million Homo sapiens on the planet.
1000 AD
1100 AD
1200 AD
1300 AD
1400 AD
1500 AD
1600 AD
1700 AD
1800 AD
1900 AD
Human Exploration & Development Leif Eriksson, lands on the North American continent. Forests in Europe depleted to build cathedrals. Major volcanic event in 1259 may impact global climate

Bubonic plague kills millions in Europe and around Mediterranean.

Sailors discover how to use the seasonal "trade winds". Multi-decadal droughts impact American SW and beyond. Atmospheric CO2 levels 6% below average Holocene level. "Little Ice Age" continues to chill much of Europe Prolonged period of drought between 1849 and 1905 in Arizona. 1.6 billion Homo sapiens on the planet.
1900 AD
1910 AD
1920 AD
1930 AD
1940 AD
1950 AD
1960 AD
1970 AD
1980 AD
1990 AD
Major Climate Events & Human Impacts Hurricane and flooding kill 8,000 in Galveston, Texas, Sept. 1900. 1917-1920- Influenza pandemic leaves 20 million dead worldwide. Great Okeechobee Flood and Hurricane kills up to 3,500, 1928.

Dust Bowl drought impacts 100 million acres of Great Plains.


Chinese drought causes 3 million to perish due to starvation, 1941-42. Great Smog of London kills 8000, Dec. 1952. Typhoon Vera kills nearly 5,000, 1.5M homeless, Japan, 1958. Hurricane Camille slams into Mississippi with 25 foot storm surge. Flooding in Vietnam kills 100,000 in 1971.
Blizzard in Iran leaves 4000 dead, 1972.
1982-1983 El Niño impacts fishing and economies throughout Pacific Basin. Hurricane Andrew causes $25B in damages in 1992, Mississippi flood damaged $18Billion.
1991 AD
1992 AD
1993 AD
1994 AD
1995 AD
1996 AD
1997 AD
1998 AD
1999 AD
2000 AD
The 1990s Bangladesh Cyclone kills over 138,000. "Perfect Storm" develops off Nova Scotia. August- Hurricane Andrew hits Florida, killing 54, costing $25 billion. "Storm of the Century" hits U.S. east coast with 270 missing. Midwest flooding causes $18 billion damage. Severe ice storm in southeast US causes an estimated $3 billion in damages. Atlantic Hurricane Season second busiest hurricane season since 1871. 830 die in Midwest heatwave. Hurricanes Bertha and Fran hit North Carolina resulting in major flooding. Impact of 1997-1998 ENSO warm event estimated at $25 to $-33 billion Hurricane Mitch devastates Central America, killing estimated 11,000. La Niña linked to drought conditions in much of U.S. and high precipitation in Pacific Northwest. Wildfires in the Western U.S. burn over 6 million acres. Over 6 billion Homo sapiens on planet.
Winter Sostice
Spring Equinox
Summer Solstice
Autumn Equinox
Winter Solstice

Past 24 Hours



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Last Updated Wednesday, 20-Aug-2008 11:22:39 EDT by
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