What Made the Thule Move? Climate and Culture in the High Arctic. September 13, 2016.
In the year 1001 CE, Leif Erikson made landfall in Greenland, and traded with people who “in their purchases preferred red cloth; in exchange they had furs to give.” The Vikings called these people Skraelings. Present-day archeologists and historians call them the Thule. More
The “Dantean Anomaly” Project: Rapid Climate Change in Late Medieval Europe. August 27, 2016.
In the last years of his life, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was an unsuspecting witness to a rapid shift in climatic conditions that led to cooler and wetter weather all over the continent. Perhaps it was not by chance that in his Inferno, finished in 1314, the sinners guilty of gluttony and sent to the third circle of hell were punished by incessant cold rain, hail and snow, while squirming through foul-smelling mud that reminded contemporaries of the crops rotting on their fields. More
A Conversation with Valérie Masson-Delmotte: Part II, IPCC and Public Outreach. August 1, 2016.
Contributing editor Benoit Lecavalier recently conducted an extensive interview with Valérie Masson-Delmotte, one of the world's leading climate scientists and the lead coordinating author for Working Group One, the Physical Scientific Basis, in the next IPCC Assessment Report. More
A Conversation with Valérie Masson-Delmotte: Part I, Climate Science. July 19, 2016.
Valérie Masson-Delmotte is an internationally renowned climate scientist. She was a lead author for the "paleoclimate" section of the fourth assessment report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She was the lead coordinating author for the "information from paleoclimate archives" section in the IPCC's fifth and most recent assessment report. For the IPCC's upcoming sixth assessment report, she is a lead coordinating author for the entire Working Group One, the Physical Scientific Basis, which oversees all other scientific chapters. More
Resurrecting Maunder’s Ghost: The Rediscovery of the Maunder Minimum. June 29, 2016.
Counting in everyday life is a relatively straightforward affair; one, two, three, and on and on. Less simple is the process of reliably counting the number of sunspots on the surface of the sun. Sunspots are darkened areas on the solar surface. In Europe, people knew of their existence at least since the early 17th century, and some of the larger sunspots were probably noted long before Galileo. Elsewhere, sunspot counts were maintained for much longer. More
What was the Maunder Minimum? New Perspectives on an Old Question. June 9, 2016.
Although it may seem like the sun is one of the few constants in Earth’s climate system, it is not. Our star undergoes both an 11-year cycle of waning and waxing activity, and a much longer seesaw in which “grand solar minima” give way to “grand solar maxima.” During the minima, which set in approximately once per century, solar radiation declines, sunspots vanish, and solar flares are rare. During the maxima, by contrast, the sun crackles with energy, and sunspots riddle its surface. More
Clio and Climate: On Saving and Researching a Climate History Archive. May 16, 2016.
In 2008, I had a meeting at the Environment Canada headquarters in Downsview, Ontario, and afterward staff gave me a tour. Since I’m a historian, they showed me the old stuff. Down in the basement – not quite the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but close enough – they led me along row after row of weather observations: all of the original paper forms and registers that since 1840 had been filled out by what would eventually be thousands of observers at thousands of weather stations across Canada. More
The Global Cooling Event of the Sixth Century. Mystery No Longer? May 2, 2016.
The June 1991 Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines was one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the twentieth century. It is well documented. There are living witnesses, newspaper articles, detailed surveys of the mountain before and after it blew its top, and satellite maps of the ejecta. The eruption was photographed from the ground and the air, and today you can even YouTube it. More
Contextualizing Western Drought. April 18, 2016.
At the 2016 American Society of Environmental History conference in Seattle, I joined Linda Nash (University of Washington), Char Miller (Pomona College), and Libby Robin (The Australian National University) to contextualize Western drought in environmental, historical and cultural terms. ‘Western drought’ in this instance referred to the region that the US Drought Monitor classifies as ‘West’, where some areas are still experiencing ‘exceptional’ drought conditions. More
Did the Spanish Empire Change Earth's Climate? February 29, 2016.
Ask most people about climate change, and you will soon find that even the relatively informed make two big assumptions. First: the world’s climate was more or less stable until recently, and second: human actions started changing our climate with the advent of industrialization. More
Featured Image, June 2016:
Not so much an image as an interactive graph, showing the relative Google search interest - not the absolute number of searches - for four terms associated with past climate change.
An Early Start to Climate Change: New Research Shows that the Oceans Began Warming in the Mid-1800s. Future Earth
The demise of the Maya Civilization: Water Shortage can Destroy Cultures. GeoSpace
How a Single Word Sparked a Four-Year Saga of Climate Fact-Checking and Blog Backlash. The Conversation
The World’s Clouds Are in Different Places Than They Were 30 Years Ago. Washington Post
3,000-Year Sea Level Study Called a Major Advance. NASA
Matter, Juerg et al. “Rapid carbon mineralization for permanent disposal of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.” Science 352 (2016): 1312-1314. doi: 10.1126/science.aad8132.
Allan, Rob et al. “Toward Integrated Historical Climate Research: The Example of Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 7 (2016): 164–74. doi:10.1002/wcc.379.
Ayre, M., J. Nicholls, C. Ward, and D. Wheeler. “Ships’ Logbooks from the Arctic in the Pre-Instrumental Period.” Geoscience Data Journal 2 (2015): 53–62.
Boehm, O., J. Jacobeit, R. Glaser, and K.-F. Wetzel. “Flood Sensitivity of the Bavarian Alpine Foreland since the Late Middle Ages in the Context of Internal and External Climate Forcing Factors.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 19 (2015): 4721–34. doi:10.5194/hess-19-4721-2015.
Büntgen, Ulf, et al. “Cooling and Societal Change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age from 536 to around 660 AD.” Nature Geoscience advance online publication (February 8, 2016). doi:10.1038/ngeo2652.
Clarke, Joanne, et al. “Climatic Changes and Social Transformations in the Near East and North Africa during the ‘long’ 4th Millennium BC: A Comparative Study of Environmental and Archaeological Evidence.” Quaternary Science Reviews 136 (2016): 96–121. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.10.003.
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