Bad weather may explain Mongols sudden retreat from Hungary in 1242

May 27, 2016 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report
Genghis Khan. Credit: Wikipedia

A pair of researchers has found a possible explanation for the sudden, mysterious reason that the Mongol army withdrew from Eastern Europe in 1242, just when it seemed poised to take Hungary. In their paper published in the journal Nature, Ulf Büntgen with the Swiss Federal Research Institute and Nicola Di Cosmo with the Institute for Advanced Study in the U.S. describe a study they made of tree ring data from trees in Hungary and historical records, which showed that the weather during the time of the Mongol invasion was not particularly well suited for an army traveling on horseback.

For hundreds of years, historical scholars have puzzled over the sudden retreat by the Mongols—they had conquered their way out of Asia and into Russia and had won every battle they had fought making their way into Eastern Europe during the early 1200s, when they abruptly turned tail and headed back to Russia, never to return. Some have suggested it was Mongol politics while others have maintained that armies in the Eastern Europe were putting up much more of a fight than the Mongols had expected. In this new effort, the researchers suggest that the reason might be much more mundane: simple bad weather.

The horses used by the Mongols, the researchers note, survived by eating the grasses that were plentiful on the Asian and Russian steppes—grasses that were healthy and strong and easily accessible due to several years of good weather. But, tree ring data, and some evidence in historical writings suggest that the winter of 1242, was particularly bad—not because it was too cold, or too snowy, but because it was just cold enough to cause widespread freezing which led to widespread melting during the spring, which just happened to coincide with the arrival of the Mongols. The melting led to flooding, because, coincidently, that part of Hungary sits at low elevations—melting ice and snow would have puddled, preventing the grass for growing very well that spring, leaving little for the horses to eat. Also, it would have meant lots of mud, making travel very difficult. The end result, the researchers suggest, might have been the Mongols simply deciding against progressing further because it did not seem worth the trouble.

Explore further: Tree ring sampling shows cold spells in Eastern Europe led to unrest over past thousand years

More information: Ulf Büntgen et al. Climatic and environmental aspects of the Mongol withdrawal from Hungary in 1242 CE, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep25606

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Shootist
1.4 / 5 (10) May 27, 2016
end of the medieval climate optimum® and the beginning of the little ice age®

"I'm skeptical because I don't think the science is at all clear, and unfortunately a lot of the experts really believe they understand it, and have the wrong answer". --Freeman Dyson

"And no climate model yet has any explanation for the Viking Warm period or the Little Ice Age. They are simply ignored. The Earth has been several degrees warmer and several degrees colder than it is now in historical times, and all this is documented. The notion that the Gulf Stream affected Greenland, the Western Scottish Islands, the Eastern Scottish Islands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, and China, all reporting longer growing seasons and earlier spring in the Viking era, is too absurd to consider seriously.

It has been colder (4th and 5th Century; Little Ice Age) and warmer (Viking Era) than now in historical times, well before the Industrial Revolution. The hockey stick is a contrived falsehood.
KBK
5 / 5 (5) May 27, 2016
Unlike Napoleon and Hitler, the mongols could take the data and do something constructive with it, even if they did not like what the data said - was the wiser course for their aspirations.

Like back off, and survive, instead of beating themselves down into their own decimation and endings.

Neither of those situations were as simple as I have stated, but the weather and assessment... was certainly a critical component.
bobbysius
5 / 5 (11) May 27, 2016
Shootist, the Viking era (medieval warm period) averaged some 0.3 C above baseline for the past 2000 years. At present we are 0.9 C above baseline, with zero signs of slowing down. This amount of warming, coming on as rapidly as it has, is unprecedented in human history.
Osiris1
5 / 5 (5) May 27, 2016
KBK gets it! The Mongol Army, and I am happy that they get more respect these days, was the most disciplined and organized and technologically advance army and nation in the world at the time. They had firearms. They had rockets. They had cannon. They had bridge building technology, sanitation, and medical knowledge. They had a HUGE supply train and did not make Napoleon's mistake to ignore it; nor Hitler's mistake of 'racist pride' substituting for intelligence and judgement...with predictable results for both of those armies. Unfortunately the high officers in command of Nappy and da Paperhanger's troops did no starving or freezing. They made their French or German footsoldiers suffer the pains of their irresponsibility. The Mongol commanders answered to their people back home. Too many of their sons died and commanders got replaced. One such Mongol Colonel was sacked in Ukraine for a bridge collapse that killed many troops. Mongol mothers wanted their sons back from war
antigoracle
4 / 5 (5) May 27, 2016
Hmmm... it couldn't possibly be than Genghis Khan's successor, Ögedei Khan died in 1241 and the dynasty had it sights on China.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (8) May 27, 2016
No more mysterious than the sudden rise of genghis khan himself. Like Alexander he didn't have the knowledge or experience to do what he did. An explanation is that they were both taught how to lead and conquer and then they proceeded according to Plan.

The mongols stopped short of conquering europe because euros had been preparing for centuries to invade the Americas. The mongols commandeered Asia in support of this Operation, much like hitler secured the whole of Europe before he invaded russia... and much like rome destroyed Carthage and secured the Mediterranean before consolidating all of Europe.

History begins to make a lot more sense if one assumes that Planning exists in the very highest levels of organization. We can see evidence in western coordination of mongol activity by studying Marco Polo's trip to China and his subsequent travels throughout Asia in service of Kublai Khan, mongol emperor of china.
jyro
1.6 / 5 (7) May 27, 2016
So back in 1242 they were smart enough to move when the climate changed. Too bad we have lost that ability, I suppose we have evolved into thinking we can control the world around us and there is no need to seek a higher elevation if the sea level rises and the ground we live on is sinking below sea level.
Da Schneib
4.3 / 5 (11) May 27, 2016
Ummmm, why are there climate nutjobs on here? This is weather, not climate.

Duhhhh ummmm.

Meanwhile, the Great Khan had died in Dec 1241 and all the generals hastened back to participate in the selection of the new Khan when they heard about it. So this isn't a particularly compelling historical hypothesis.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4.5 / 5 (8) May 28, 2016
These seems to be the basic facts:

- What stopped the Mongols was weather (a winter/spring), not climate.
- The Mongols adopted Chinese technique. Hell, they adopted China. But it took time.
- Freeman Dyson is neither ecologist nor climate scientist, which the quote is mixing. He is in fact a science denialist on both, since the effects of increasing nutrients on ecology isn't simple. "What I would like to emphasize is that human actions have very large effects on the ecology ... it's a question of drawing a balance." [ http://www.npr.or...-and-sky ]
- If you adopt Dyson's quote you have to give its context. It isn't about climate science as such. Never the less it claims that climate effects can be bad (on the "balance"). A climate science denialist can't have it both ways when using this quote.

@TGO; ? The Mongols tried to invade (parts of) Europe, that is an established fact. See e.g. the article.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4.5 / 5 (8) May 28, 2016
By the way, I fortuitously found a evolution and climate science education blog reviewing Dyson's interview. They hammer it on the science:

"Misconception Monday: Freeman Dyson Offers up a Smorgasbord of Misconceptions ... a continued source of inspiration to his colleagues at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. However, since 2007, he's been purporting to be the voice of "moderation" on the topic of climate change. Casting himself in the role of objective, outside observer, he has declared that climate scientists are caught up in their own hype, in love with their own models, and distracting society from ills far more important than climate change.

I wish that he were right. It would be swell if climate change were really not a big deal. But he's not, and it is."

[ http://ncse.com/b...-0016353 ]

You can read the rest there.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) May 28, 2016
What stopped the Mongols was weather (a winter/spring)
?? Mongols are from a subarctic environment. They were used to harsh weather. Genghis khan withdrew from southeast Asia because it was too hot for him.
@TGO; ? The Mongols tried to invade (parts of) Europe, that is an established fact. See e.g. the article
They tried but they didn't try very hard. Euro Knights were no match for mongol seine tactics.

One favorite tactic of theirs was to draw knights into a pursuit, changing out spent ponies as they went, until the knights horses were too exhausted to continue, whereupon they were slaughtered.

The fact is, mongols could easily have swept europe but theyou chose not to. This is why the article calls it a mystery.

And khanates continued to expand long after the death of 'the great khan' with tamerlane and the others, overrunning India for example. And so his death does not explain why they stopped in hungary.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) May 28, 2016
Perhaps their most significant impact was the spread of plague throughout Asia where perhaps 200 million died from it.

They were also the ones who introduced it into europe through the crimea. The people in the region where the plague originated were very familiar with it. They knew where it came from and how to avoid being infected. And they knew how to transport it.

Germ warfare is an ancient art. Plague was used by Sparta against athens. The mongols used it to depopulate Asia, again to protect Europe's back in preparation for the great invasion of the Americas and the conquest of the world's oceans.

According to Plan.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 28, 2016
Errata "mongol seine tactics" - mongol siege tactics.

Their typical operation against a city involved besieging it and demanding surrender, allegiance, and tribute. If the city refused it would be completely destroyed and the people enslaved.

There were cities in india with much better defenses than those in Europe, and yet the siege engineers that the mongols had captured during their conquests gave them the ability to conquer them.

Europe didn't stand a chance if the mongols were actually serious about taking it.

In the same vein you may want to question why the Saracens gave up on europe after Martell defeated them in France. Or why the moslems stopped in constantinople.
Maggnus
4.5 / 5 (8) May 28, 2016
Shootist, the Viking era (medieval warm period) averaged some 0.3 C above baseline for the past 2000 years. At present we are 0.9 C above baseline, with zero signs of slowing down. This amount of warming, coming on as rapidly as it has, is unprecedented in human history.

Shootist doesn't care about those pesky things called "facts". He is too busy proselytizing about the Great Conspiracy of the socialists, who wish to take over the word and impose TAXES and stuff!

Or is is the lizard people? Dyson? He's a bit mixed up due to his age.

mhjhnsn
4.3 / 5 (4) May 29, 2016
Yeah, but well-documented history, as opposed to idle speculation, tells us that the reason they withdrew was that news came of the death of the Great Khan, Ogedei, and the leaders needed to get back to Karakorum or at least in closer communication with their allies there, to participate in selecting the new Khan and protect their interests.

It's also not credible that horses and horsemen who routinely crossed the Siberian steppe would have been put off by a European winter, even one worse than usual, as European winters went during the Medieval Warm Period.

Sometimes it's NOT all about the climate.
rkm
5 / 5 (2) May 30, 2016
Well said mhjhnsn!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 30, 2016
Yeah, but well-documented history, as opposed to idle speculation, tells us that the reason they withdrew was that news came of the death of the Great Khan, Ogedei, and the leaders etc
Well-documented history told us that the battleship Maine didn't blow up from the inside and that academy-trained US generals weren't simply allowed to head south before the Civil War to lead rebel armies and cause great destruction and loss of life.

There are much better explanations for historical events. 'Well-documented history' is full of sociopolitical propaganda meant to determine behavior instead of explaining it. That is its function.
Anda
5 / 5 (6) Jun 01, 2016
TheGhostofOtto, this is hilarious:

"The mongols stopped short of conquering europe because euros had been preparing for centuries to invade the Americas."

In 1242! :) Thank you!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (3) Jun 01, 2016
TheGhostofOtto, this is hilarious:

"The mongols stopped short of conquering europe because euros had been preparing for centuries to invade the Americas."

In 1242! :) Thank you!
-And when did the Vikings, the Phoenicians, and the Egyptians et al first get there? When did euros begin developing gunpowder-based warfare? And why did the Chinese give it up?

You don't know much history do you?
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (3) Jun 02, 2016

HEY GHOSTOFOTTO (the disciple of the WWII Nazi, Otto Skorzeny)

So now you're pretending to know history from pure twaddle? LMAO
Like I said before, your excerpts you showed are invalid. They are not proof of what you claimed about me.
GIVE US THE ORIGINAL POST LINK WHERE PIROUETTE OR ANYONE ELSE MENTIONED BELIEF IN YOUR IMAGINARY 900 FOOT TALL GLASSY HEADED MARTIANS (LAYING DOWN). YOU CAN'T DO IT B/C IT DOES NOT EXIST, ISN'T THAT RIGHT? SINCE IT WAS YOU WHO MADE IT UP.
So prove your innocence, Otto. Try to be like a real human.

http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

You yourself claimed that "Fish is a metaphor for womanly smells." Do you remember that, Otto? And do you remember telling Estevan57 how you go up close to fat women at Walmart and oink like a pig at them? That's about the only history you actually know, isn't it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jun 02, 2016
I think youre missing the point here pussytard. I'm not trying to prove anything to YOU.

That would be a waste of time.

I offer examples of your past behavior for other posters, not you.
Otto_Szucks
1 / 5 (1) Jun 02, 2016
Nobody is missing the point, pussyotto. YOU made up certain lies about me (which you can't prove), and now you continue to mislead other posters with your phony historical shit that is patently false and you expect all the other readers of your garbage to believe what you say?

Give us the PROOF that I or anyone else had ever claimed to see 900 foot tall glassy headed martians in Pirouette's NASA photos. Excerpts are not proof. Now get busy and find that proof, you dumbass LIAR.
Otto_Szucks
not rated yet Jun 02, 2016
TheGhostofOtto, this is hilarious:

"The mongols stopped short of conquering europe because euros had been preparing for centuries to invade the Americas."

In 1242! :) Thank you!
-And when did the Vikings, the Phoenicians, and the Egyptians et al first get there? When did euros begin developing gunpowder-based warfare? And why did the Chinese give it up?

You don't know much history do you?
- Ottopussy

https://en.wikipe...Americas

Anda knows what Ottopussy only THINKS he knows.
TheghostofOttopussy's false claim that Phoenicians came to the Americas pre-Columbian is evidently another one of Ottopussy's brainfarts to impress; it has been debunked.

"...it seems logical that the allegedly more extensive Phoenician and Carthaginian presence would have left similar evidence. The absence of such remains is strong circumstantial evidence that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians never reached the Americas.[19"

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