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Letter: What exactly does climate warming mean for the Caribbean?
Published on March 15, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The Caribbean Sea 12,000 years ago did not exist. That's not very long ago in the scheme of things. There was a huge ice cap over North America two to three miles thick, and a similar one over the Andes and parts of South America.

You could walk from what is now Venezuela to what is currently Florida. There were lakes and rivers flowing into a much smaller lower Atlantic to the north. The Caribbean basin filled with water during the great meltdown of the ice fields. What we now see as islands are in fact the tops of mountains that existed prior to the immense floods.

It has been a mystery to many scientists over the years why there are not more ancient relics found on Caribbean islands. I believe the answer is fairly simple; over a few hundred years, culminating perhaps into a few thousand years, people who lived next to rivers and lakes in the Caribbean basin had to keep moving to higher, drier ground. As the rivers and plains flooded, vast forests were swamped in the lowlands and eventually in the final flooding 12,000 years ago, laid to rest at the bottom of the new sea area, later to be known as the Caribbean. Of course, over millions of years this phenomenon happened many times; it has been a rise and fall cycle. That is why we now find oil, a residue from ancient forestation over huge expanses of times, in many sea areas of the Caribbean.

The sea rose about 500 feet, if you want to see the outline of the ancient Caribbean basin, take a look with Google Earth, you can clearly see the outline of land masses in shallow sea. You can see areas that were once lakes and rivers, the outlines are there for all to see.

There have been many debates about where our Caribbean ancestors came from, some claiming without doubt Venezuela. I often think about this and I do doubt what our professors ask us to believe. How about if the Americas -- North, Middle, Latin and South America -- were populated from the Caribbean basin, people migrating from the rising waters. Why do we have to accept that our ancestors chopped down some big trees, hollowed out the logs and paddled to the islands? Why do we accept that version so readily when there is much more to ponder, and that what is perhaps a more acceptable story of our beginnings? After all, much of the Americas -- North, Central and South -- were unlivable, very cold and had huge ice fields and glaciers, glaciers which still exist in some places today.

We are now in an era of another a great meltdown. The world’s ice caps -- north and south -- are melting at an alarming rate; the world’s seas are rising and will accelerate in rising over the next 50 years. We can be sure that any sea defences that we put in to defend our property will only be a short term solution. The only real solution may be to move to higher ground. Governments should stop all building at seaside locations. Low lying islands that are near or only one to three feet above sea level will be lost to the sea. All of this could happen in many of today's young people’s lifetimes. After all 50 years is just around the corner.

We almost slipped back into the ice age in 1816, the year known as “The Year without a Summer” also known as the “Poverty Year”. 1816 was a year in which severe summer climate abnormalities caused average global temperatures to decrease by 0.4–0.7 °C (0.7–1.3 °F), resulting in major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere. Evidence suggests that the anomaly was caused by a combination of a historic low solar activity with a volcanic winter event, the latter caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years. The Little Ice Age, then in its concluding decades, may also have been a factor.

The sun rays were blocked from reaching the earth by steam and dust thrown miles high from a series of eruptions over a preceding period of three years, culminating with Mount Tambora.

People in North America were starving and many traipsed across land to the West coast, looking for the sun. Many perished and died on the journey. Crops failed all over America as nothing grew in the freezing temperatures without sunlight. In the New York area it was snowing with dry fogs and severe frosts in August.

In Europe there were crop failures and bread riots all over, and people were killed in Switzerland during the bread riots there.

These are the culprit volcanoes, whose eruptions caused the year without summer:

1812, La Soufrière on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean
1812, Awu in the Sangihe Islands, Indonesia
1813, Suwanoseejima in the Ryukyu Islands, Japan
1814, Mayon in the Philippines
1815, Mount Tambora, in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)

If there had been further eruptions of these or other volcanoes over the following few years we would have had a full blown ice age, in which case I would not be writing this today.


With today’s climate change, there is no way of reversing that at this late stage, we can only pray that nature is kind to us, and something happens that drastically and swiftly alters the current trend of global warming.

The one thing we can be sure of and we are already experiencing it worldwide and in the Caribbean, as the ice caps melt more water will be vaporised, which will contribute to heavy rain storms and flooding.

Perhaps another year without summer will bring us back into balance.

A very silly Vincentian politician and leader said a few weeks ago “we are at war with nature”. I hope we are not, because nature will always win.

Peter Binose
Reads: 2360

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