Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Little Ice Age, 1300-1800

The Fur Cloak, by Rubens, about 1636-1639. 
Is history repeating itself? (Again?) Is there global cooling in our future? Scientists are predicting a period of less solar activity. See Associated Press article following.

Our ancestors survived conditions with considerably less resources than we have available. There was no central heating in their homes and shops, of course, and fuel (peat, coal, and wood) was just as expensive, or more so, as the fuels we consume today. Most people just couldn’t afford the luxury of warmth in winter. They didn’t change clothes or bathe much, especially in cold weather when they’d have to haul and heat water. They shared beds near a kitchen hearth, too. We who need our personal space would never survive that lifestyle!

This is just my observation from studying genealogy, not backed up with statistics, but it looks like family size burgeoned during the global temperature dip of the 16th and 17th centuries: maybe the long, freezing nights were not all that boring! Certainly, a number of family members of William and Mary Barrett Dyer had birthdays in September through December. So what really happened during the deep freezes back in January, February, and March?

The Little Ice Age, from about 1317-1800, began with catastrophic floods, crop failure, and domestic animal deaths (which brought on economic depression), harsh winters—and starvation. Epidemics raged unchecked, and millions died in the bubonic plague outbreak in 1348-1350. Because so many laborers (peasants tied to the land, who owed service to their landlords) died, cathedral and castle building ground to a halt for years.  

The extended Bartholomew family of Burley, early 1600s, 
with their seven surviving children. 
Two sons emigrated to colonial Massachusetts. 
The family are not among my ancestors.

Of course our ancestors knew nothing about it, but they experienced the effects of a plunge in sunspot activity in the 1600s, which corresponded with the coldest years of the Little Ice Age. Specifically during Mary Dyer’s lifetime, 1611-1660, there was the time of famines, waves of bubonic plague across Europe, the Thirty Years War, the Great Migration to America, the English Civil War, and the explosion of African slave trade to the Americas and Europe.

Iceland’s ports were ice-bound by miles for several years, and trade and passenger shipping from Europe was forced far south to avoid sea ice. Boston Harbor (sea water) froze over for two to three miles out, hard enough to walk on, for two weeks at a time.

Journal of Governor John Winthrop—January 1638: “About thirty persons of Boston going out in a fair day to Spectacle Island to cut wood, (the town being in great want thereof,) the next night the wind rose so high at N.E. with snow, and after at N.W. for two days, and then it froze so hard, as the bay was all frozen up, save a little channel. In this twelve of them gate to the Governor’s Garden [an island], and seven more were carried in the ice in a small skiff out at Broad Sound, and kept among Brewster’s Rocks, without food or fire, two days, and then the wind forbearing, they gate to Pullin Point, to a little house there of Mr. Aspenwall’s. Three of them got home the next day over the ice, but their hands and feet frozen. Some lost their fingers and toes, and one died. The rest went from Spectacle Island to the main, but two of them fell into the ice, yet recovered again. In this extremity of weather, a small pinnace was cast away upon Long Island [in Boston Harbor] by Natascott, but the men were saved and came home upon the ice.” 
The Little Ice Age “peaked” in Mary Barrett Dyer’s lifetime—the coldest years in many centuries were those she spent in colonial America. This graph shows the severity of winters in Europe and North America from 1000-2000 AD. The absolute coldest period, 1600-1675, coincides with William and Mary Dyer’s life spans.

More on the Dyers:
Mary Dyer and freedom of conscience:  http://bit.ly/kuTf4K
Article on Mary Dyer’s individualism against orthodoxy and the established church: http://bit.ly/ivWJbO
For a timeline on William and Mary Dyer’s life together, see my post here
To learn more about the Dyers’ life, join her Facebook friends.

The Dyers lived in Boston from 1635 to the spring of 1638, then co-founded Portsmouth, Rhode Island, about 60 miles away. One year later, they co-founded the city of Newport, Rhode Island, where they developed a large farm and the seaport.

When Mary Dyer was making a winter trip back to America after several years in England, her ship diverted to Barbados because of severe storms. From a letter written in Barbados on Feb 25, 1657: “A ship came in hither, which was going to New England, but the storms were so violent that they were forced to come hither, [until] the winter there was nearly over. In this ship were two Friends, Anne Burden of Bristol, and one Mary Dyer from London; both lived in New England formerly, and were members cast out of their [Puritan] churches. Mary goes to her husband who lives upon Rhode Island...”

A NASA website says, “During the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, from 1645 to 1715, there is believed to have been a decrease in the total energy output from the Sun, as indicated by little or no sunspot activity. Known as the Maunder Minimum, astronomers of the time observed only about 50 sunspots for a 30-year period as opposed to a more typical 40-50,000 spots. The Sun normally shows signs of variability, such as its eleven-year sunspot cycle. Within that time, it goes from a minimum to a maximum period of activity represented by a peak in sunspots and flare activity.”

More from NASA: “Between the mid-1600s and the early 1700s the Earth’s surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere appear to have been at or near their lowest values of the last millennium. European winter temperatures over that time period were reduced by 1.8 to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1-1.5 Celsius). This cool down is evident through derived temperature readings from tree rings and ice cores, and in historical temperature records, as gathered by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Virginia.”

A Solar and Heliospheric Observatory image shows Region 486 that unleashed a record flare (lower left) November 18, 2003 on the sun. The spot itself cannot yet be seen but large, hot, gas-filled loops above this region are visible.
Photographer: Getty Images.
Goodnight sun: Scientists predict sunspots might disappear for years
By: Associated Press
Update as of June 15, 2011

WASHINGTON - The sun is heading into an unusual and extended hibernation, scientists predict. Around 2020, sunspots may disappear for years, maybe decades.

But scientists say it is nothing to worry about. Solar storm activity has little to do with life-giving light and warmth from the sun. The effects from a calmer sun are mostly good.

There’d be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems. And it might mean a little less increase in global warming. It’s happened before, but not for a couple centuries.

“The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like a summertime TV show,” said National Solar Observatory associate director Frank Hill, the lead author of a scientific presentation at a solar physics conference in New Mexico.

Scientists don’t know why the sun is going quiet. But all the signs are there. Hill and colleagues based their prediction on three changes in the sun spotted by scientific teams: Weakening sunspots, fewer streams spewing from the poles of the sun’s corona and a disappearing solar jet stream.

Those three cues show, “there’s a good possibility that the sun could be going into some sort of state from which it takes a long time to recover,” said Richard Altrock, an astrophysicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory and study co-author.

The prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020. Experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years with few sunspots -- higher magnetic areas that appear as dark spots.

The enormous magnetic field of the sun dictates the solar cycle, which includes sunspots, solar wind and ejection of fast-moving particles that sometimes hit Earth. Every 22 years, the sun’s magnetic field switches north and south, creating an 11-year sunspot cycle. At peak times, like 2001, there are sunspots every day and more frequent solar flares and storms that could disrupt satellites.

Earlier this month, David Hathaway, NASA’s top solar storm scientist, predicted that the current cycle, which started around 2009, will be the weakest in a century. Hathaway is not part of Tuesday’s [June 14, 2011] prediction.

Altrock also thinks the current cycle won’t have much solar activity. He tracks streamers from the solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere seen during eclipses. The streamers normally get busy around the sun’s poles a few years before peak solar storm activity. That “rush to the poles” would have happened by now, but it hasn’t and there’s no sign of it yet. That also means the cycle after that is uncertain, he said.

Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory, another study co-author, said sunspot magnetic fields have been steadily decreasing in strength since 1998. If they continue on the current pace, their magnetic fields will be too weak to become spots as of 2022 or so, he said.

Jet streams on the sun’s surface and below are also early indicators of solar storm activity, and they haven’t formed yet for the 2020 cycle. That indicates that there will be little or delayed activity in that cycle, said Hill, who tracks jet streams.

“People shouldn’t be scared of this,” said David McComas, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, who wasn’t part of the team. “This is about the magnetic field and the ionized gas coming out of the sun. It’s a reduction in that, not the light and the heat.”

So sunspot reduction is to blame?
There are questions about what this means for Earth’s climate. Three times in the past the regular 11-year solar cycle has gone on an extended vacation -- at the same time as cool periods on Earth.

OK, maybe not
Skeptics of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels have often pointed to solar radiation as a possible cause of a warming Earth, but they are in the minority among scientists. The Earth has warmed as solar activity has decreased.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria, said there could be small temperature effects, but they are far weaker than the strength of man-made global warming from carbon dioxide and methane. He noted that in 2010, when solar activity was mostly absent, Earth tied for its hottest year in more than a century of record-keeping.

Hill and colleagues wouldn’t discuss the effects of a quiet sun on temperature or global warming.

“If our predictions are true, we’ll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the sun has any effect on global warming,” Hill said.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mary Dyer and freedom of conscience

 “It is not the glorious battlements, the painted windows, the crouching gargoyles that support a building, but the stones that lie unseen in or upon the earth. It is often those who are despised and trampled on that bear up the weight of a whole nation.” ~John Owen, English Puritan minister, 1616–1683.

June 1, 1660 was a landmark date in American history. Its relation to civil rights guaranteed by the US Constitution's Bill of Rights should be noted, specifically the 1st Amendment regarding freedom of religion (to worship or not, as your own conscience dictates), and freedom of speech and assembly.

Mary Barrett Dyer, hanged in Boston on June 1, 1660, was martyred for liberty of conscience that Americans enjoy under the Constitution's Bill of Rights.  Other countries have modeled their constitutions and rights on those of the United States, so these liberties have become global.

In 2010, on the 350th anniversary of Mary Dyer’s martyrdom, there was no mention of her in newspapers or online. No events in Boston, Rhode Island, or Washington, DC. No political or religious movements made mention of the sacrifice of the only female religious martyr in America.

Torture and persecution
In the late 1650s, Quakers had been persecuted for their nonconformism by having their tongues bored with a hot awl; men and women were stripped bare to the waist and flogged with up to 30 strokes of the thrice-knotted lash, to add more injury to each stroke; they had their ears either nailed to a post, or sliced off altogether; without a trial, they were thrown in earthen-floored jail cells, sometimes for months, with no candle or heat in New England’s harsh winters; prisoners were beaten several times a week. Even non-Quakers whose consciences were pricked by this harsh treatment were jailed, whipped, heavily fined, and disfranchised (lost their civil rights and vote) for harboring or sympathizing publicly with Quakers.

Contrary to popular opinion in genealogy sites, Mary Barrett Dyer wasn't hanged “for the crime of being a Quaker.” It wasn’t a crime to be a Quaker! However, they didn’t attend Puritan worship or teaching services or pay required tithes, didn’t keep the Sabbath holy, and criticized the government leaders for their cruelty. Mary Dyer provoked her own trials and execution for what we'd call civil disobedience, by repeatedly defying the totalitarian Puritan regime headed by Massachusetts Governor John Endecott. The Massachusetts Bay founders believed that religious error or dissent from their dogma was treasonable.

Endecott, a religious zealot, had a checkered past, leaving an illegitimate son in England before he emigrated to Salem, Massachusetts in 1629; treasonably cutting the “idolatrous” cross from the British flag; a Massachusetts committee reported in 1634 “that they apprehend [Endecott] had offended therein many ways, in rashness, uncharitableness, indiscretion and exceeding the limits of his calling;” acting in ways that endangered the patent that was their title to land in New England; creating a mint in Boston that made unauthorized—and therefore counterfeit—coins with a 1652 imprint for 30 years (so if the English government confiscated the minting, Boston could claim the coins were all from 1652 when they had little oversight during the English political upheaval); and punishing his indentured servant girl with 32 lash-stripes and public humiliation for fornication, bearing a child out of wedlock, and insistently naming his son as the predatory father (which, of course, would make John Endecott the father of a rapist and grandfather of a lowly servant’s bastard—can’t have that!).

The colony and later state of Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams in the 1630s as a haven for freedom of conscience, and that’s where Mary and her husband and children made their home after being ejected from Massachusetts in 1637 over a religious matter prosecuted by the church state. Mary studied Quaker beliefs in England for several years, and returned to Boston only to be thrown into jail for 10 weeks with no notice to her husband in nearby Rhode Island.

Though Mary could have lived out her life in safety, she believed she was called by God to try the bloody religious laws of Connecticut and Massachusetts, and she boldly entered their territory to both preach, and support her Friends in the faith by visiting them in prison.

Prepared to die
Her letters written from Boston prison to Governor Endecott, her actions, and her statements at trial demonstrate to us that she willingly sacrificed her life to stop the torture and persecution of people who were obeying the voice of God in their hearts. She wrote, “Be not found Fighters against God, but let my Counsel and Request be accepted with you, To repeal all such Laws, that the Truth and Servants of the Lord, may have free Passage among you and you be kept from shedding innocent Blood…My life is not accepted, neither availeth me, in Comparison of the Lives and Liberty of the Truth and Servants of the Living God… yet nevertheless, with wicked Hands have you put two of them to Death, which makes me to feel, that the Mercies of the Wicked is Cruelty. I rather choose to die than to live, as from you, as Guilty of their innocent Blood… Therefore I leave these Lines with you, appealing to the faithful and true Witness of God, which is One in all Consciences, before whom we must all appear; with whom I shall eternally rest, in Everlasting Joy and Peace, whether you will hear or forebear: With him is my Reward, with whom to live is my Joy, and to die is my Gain.”

Knowing that there was a death sentence hanging over her, she deliberately avoided her husband who would have stopped her, and returned to Boston, where she was arrested and jailed. She was convicted and condemned on May 31, 1660, and was hanged the next day, on June 1.

The shock over Mary Dyer’s death crossed the Atlantic immediately, and King Charles II put an end to the New England death penalty for religious practice, requiring that capital cases be tried in England. Public outrage in New England over Mary’s death actually consolidated sympathy for Quakers, Baptists, Jews, and others who refused to conform to Puritanism. Even some of the New England Puritans demonstrated their opposition to the harsh treatment of people of conscience, and suffered imprisonment, banishment, confiscation of property, and heavy fines. A number of those who’d suffered persecution converted to the Quaker faith. Gradually, the torture and persecution slowed. 

William Dyer’s name appears on the 1663 royal charter granting rights of freedom of religion to Rhode Island colony. He and several others had worked closely with Dr. John Clarke of Newport, the architect of the document, to preserve the separation of church and state, and promote the freedom of conscience. One hundred thirty years later, the concept became concrete in the US Constitution's Bill of Rights, Amendment I.

MARY DYER ILLUMINATED, a fact-based novel by Christy K Robinson, is now available:

Article on Mary Dyer’s individualism against orthodoxy and the established church: http://rootingforancestors.blogspot.com/#ixzz1O67URZcQ
For a timeline on William and Mary Dyer's life together, see my post here
To learn more about the Dyers' life, join her Facebook friends.