Follow the patterns and see the cycles – Part I

Russ Steele

The impact of sunspots on the earths climate has been observed by many scientists. One of the first significant observation was about 200 years ago when astronomer William Herschel observed a correlation between wheat prices and sunspots. When there were fewer sunspots, he noted that the climate turned colder and drier. When crop yields fell due to a cold dry climate, wheat prices rose. When the weather was warm and wet the crop yields increased, and the price of wheat dropped.  Observation of this pattern resulted in a more detailed examination of the sunspot cycle and the relationship to climate changes on the planet.

In future posts I will start tracking the price of winter wheat. As David Archibald noted, when the sunspots decline, the earth cools and becomes dryer, as a result the ability of grow winter wheat in Canada’s bread basket also declines. This decline will be reflected in the price of winter wheat over the next 20 to 30 years.   Archibald’s Speech is here.

In the mid-1970s I was stationed by the Air Force in Arizona near the Anasazi Indians cliff dwellings I was intrigued by their building and agricultural skills. The question kept coming up in discussions with my oldest daughter, who was developing an interest in archaeology, where did the cliff dwellers go and why did they leave? The Anasazi Indians mysteriously vacated the Four Corners Region around 1300 AD and vanished. However, the migration started much earlier.

While the Internet was a twenty years away, we started a family project to investigate the issue in local libraries, including multiple visit to the Mesa Verde cliff dwelling in Colorado in the late 1970s when we were living in Omaha Nebraska.  We discovered that there had been a 40-50 year drought in the region around 1150, making agriculture very difficult in the dry desert south west. There had been consistent and regular rainfall patterns from 700-1130, then the drought set in.

The next issue we tackled was, what caused long term droughts. We turned to investigating the sun and discovered the role of sunspots and sunspot cycles, but never really resolved the issue. It was only after retirement, that I started thinking about the drought issues and its connection to global warming and global cooling. I discovered that more droughts are associate with cooling, rather than warming. As we will soon see in the Drought Clock below.

I have been re-reading John Casti’s book, Searching for Certainty: What Scientists Can Know about the Future.  Casti holds a professorship at both The Santa Fe Institute, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and at the Technical University of Vienna, in Vienna, Austria, and he has written extensively about complexity and forecasting.  A couple of years ago we visited the Santa Fe Institute, with some friends and spent an afternoon in the Institute library.

In Searching for Certainty, Casti has a chapter on weather and climate in which he examines patterns, and he introduces the reader to John Wheeler’s Drought Clock. Wheeler’s Clock is based on extensive research on the cultural implications that climate change had on social and political structures around the globe.  I was most interested in the recurring climate change patterns shown in the Drought Clock.

Note the extensive global cold drought around 1150 AD, when the Anasazi were struggling in the Four Corners region.  I will come back to the Drought Clock in future discussions, as there are some long term implications for us in the next couple of centuries, especially if the 510 year drought pattens identified by Wheeler are in fact valid.  But, first lets look at some more historical cycles and patterns.

Climatologist Cliff Harris and Meteorologist Randy Mann have developed a long range weather forecasting business that is used in agriculture and other businesses needing long range weather forecasts. Cliff Harris, has been rated as one of the top ten climatologists in the world. His long-range weather forecasts have been used by high-ranking government officials and is quoted in leading magazines and newspapers. Randy Mann as a partner of Harris-Mann Climatology, he provides some of the daily weather information, computer graphics and maintenance for the company.  They give credence to long term climate patterns, and have developed an extensive data base of past climate trends.

Harris-Mann created a worldwide historical climate and weather data base from 600 B.C. to 2000 A.D, and this graphic of global climate cycles.

The Harris-Mann LongRange Weather web site is interactive, allowing the reader to check past temperature and precipitation in 50 year blocks, from 600 B.C. to the Present.

Here is an example during the drought in the 1470s, which is one of the main nodes on the 510 year drought clock cycles.

Looking at the 600 B.C. to 2000 A.D. graphic, it is clear that volcanism played a role in the climate variability.  In a future post, I will examine the relationship of volcanos and solar cycles. There seems to be in uptick in volcanic activity in both the Southern and Northern Hemisphere. My question  is, are the increases in volcanic activity on earth connected to a reduction in sunspots on the sun. A subject I will be exploring in the future. But, first we need to look at the variability of solar pattens,  which will be the subject of Part II.

5 thoughts on “Follow the patterns and see the cycles – Part I

  1. Dave Cranfield August 20, 2011 / 2:03 pm

    Just out of curiosity, what board will you be tracking the price of wheat? Chi, NO, KC, NY…….?

    • Russ August 20, 2011 / 8:06 pm


      I am using the KC board, I was plotting multiple boards but they were all very close producing a graphical mess, so I chose the KC Board to represent all the Boards.

  2. papertiger August 21, 2011 / 8:19 am

    I think we should start at the beginning. Work your way up to the KC board or what have you.

    Has anybody checked Herschel’s numbers?

    • Russ August 21, 2011 / 4:19 pm


      More details please. I am not sure what you are asking or suggesting.

  3. papertiger August 21, 2011 / 10:33 pm

    Compare Herschel’s sunspot numbers verses wheat then carry it forward, adjusting for market manipulations, up to today. Does the record diverge at some point? How big a divergence?

    It seems like as many times as I’ve read that Herschel blurb that this must have been done before. How come we never see that study? It would encapsulate the story of pollution from the birth of industry, right up to today.

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