"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."
- Mark Twain
No, it's not. And a report announced yesterday by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory may have provided further evidence of that axiom - particularly in the never-ending debate over the Sun's role in climate change.
In the past, most studies on the subject have relied upon satellite readings and drilled core samples to correlate solar activity to climate shifts. But now, a group of NASA and university scientists have cleverly turned to historical Egyptian records of the annual water level of Earth's longest river - the Nile.
As NASA's Joan Feynman explains:
"Since the time of the pharaohs, the water levels of the Nile were accurately measured, since they were critically important for agriculture and the preservation of temples in Egypt. These records are highly accurate and were obtained directly, making them a rare and unique resource for climatologists to peer back in time."
By then comparing the Nile records to similarly well-ascribed observations of the solar change phenomenon known as an aurora in the Northern Hemisphere over the same periods, definitive connections can be established between the two. As described in the announcement, auroras are:
"bright glows in the night sky that happen when mass is rapidly ejected from the sun's corona, or following solar flares. They are an excellent means of tracking variations in the sun's activity."
Their occurrences were carefully documented by early observers in Europe and the Far East as they were once believed to portend future disasters. Strangely enough, early superstition may just aid modern science, for it has provided one of the two unconnected sets of measurements with absolutely no hidden agenda to cloud their validity. The first can be used to determine annual rainfall totals, while the second, changes in solar activity during corresponding periods in the same region.
And, during the 850 year range studied (622 through 1470 A.D), two rather substantial periods of common variation - one 200 years long -- did, indeed, occur. The climate implications of this, according to the researchers, "extend far beyond the Nile River basin."
While the announcement conveys a more detailed look at these implications in understanding global climate change, it ends with this seemingly obvious conclusion:
"When solar activity is high, conditions are drier, and when it is low, conditions are wetter."
But, as these findings fail to forward the eco-maniacs' childlike insistence that mankind be held accountable for everything, it's unlikely that even the mightiness of the Nile will silence their mighty denial.