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To suggest that history is shaped by chance weather events and climatic variation doesn’t lend it quite the same gravitas as if it were wrought by great leaders. It certainly isn’t as inspirational. But such processes can be just as important — and the weather can sometimes foil even the best-laid plans for world domination.

Take the storms that blew up off Kyushu in 1274 and 1281. Luckily for Japan, they happened just as Kublai Khan and his Mongol horde were trying to invade. Later named kamikaze (divine winds), the storms helped repel the Mongols — but what has not been appreciated is that climate change had helped them to expand their empire in the first place.

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