Eva Jobbová, Arlene Crampsie, Conor Murphy, Francis Ludlow, Robert McLeman, Csaba Horvath
Oak sample from Deer Park townland, Antrim, Northern Ireland, with rings spanning the well-known climatic downturn, c.536-550. The year 532 is marked, after which the rings become noticeably narrower. The real anomaly however begins in 536 and runs into the 540s. This oak sample can be seen in full in the top left inset, while the top right depicts a mature contemporary oak, the “King’s Oak”, on the Charleville Estate, Co. Offaly, Ireland. We thank David Brown for permission to photograph this sample.
Before the summer of 2018, had you asked an Irish person to describe a drought, you might well have received a bemused response that rain and floods are a more common problem in this part of the world. But on July 5th that summer, the Irish Times declared that:
The vast majority of the country officially enters a state of 'absolute drought' today with no rainfall recorded at 24 out of 25 weather stations during the last two weeks. The extreme weather conditions have prompted Irish Water to expand a hosepipe ban from the Greater Dublin Area to the whole country from Friday morning.
The summer of 2018 left memories of low river levels, brown fields, unusually warm and sunny weather, cash-strapped farmers, and the infamous ‘hosepipe ban’ when authorities encouraged people to report on any neighbours who dared water their gardens with a hose.
Was 2018 an anomaly, or a taste of things to come in a changing climate? Were droughts common in Ireland’s past, and have they simply been forgotten? If so, what can we learn about their impacts, and can such knowledge help us be more prepared in the future? These are some of the questions that our Irish Research Council funded project, Irish Droughts: Environmental and Cultural Memories of a Neglected Hazard, attempts to answer.  By combining new oral histories with existing climatic records, tree-ring data, historical documents and folklore, we aim to reconstruct Ireland’s drought history, and examine their severity, geographical extent and impacts from the medieval period to the present.
“Drought-free” Ireland: simply a myth?
The perception of Ireland as a soggy “drought-free” island is based at least partly on the anomalous lack of severe droughts over much of the last thirty years. But longer-term rainfall records, reconstructions from natural archives, and historical documents all indicate that multi-year periods with limited precipitation have occurred repeatedly in Ireland over the past two millennia, particularly in eastern to southeastern regions. 
Many cultures have observed and kept records of the weather, especially the extreme events that had adverse impacts on their livelihoods, stood out from the “ordinary”, or held some special significance for understanding the natural world and the place of humans within it. The Irish were no exception, and their tradition of keeping yearly chronicles dating back to at least the sixth century, known collectively as the Irish Annals, involved frequent reporting of weather.  These sources thus allow researchers to identify the frequency and severity of droughts, and how people attempted to mitigate the impacts. For example, a thousand years ago it was recorded that:
Much inclement weather happened in the land of Ireland, which carried away corn, milk, fruit, and fish, from the people, so that there grew up dishonesty among all, that no protection was extended to church or fortress, gossipred or mutual oath, until the clergy and laity of Munster assembled, with their chieftains, under Donnchadh… the son of the King of Ireland, at Cill-Dalua [i.e. Killaloe, County Clare], where they enacted a law and a restraint upon every injustice, from small to great. God gave peace and favourable weather in consequence of this law. Annals of the Four Masters, 1050 CE. 
Weather recording was not the sole purpose of Irish annalists, of course, and so their documentation of extreme weather events, though remarkable for its chronological span, is for this and other reasons incomplete. It is also sometimes coloured by the ways in which such events were perceived, or how they could be interpreted for religious or political motives, as suggested by the case of 1050 above. 
One way to fill the gaps and supplement written descriptions is with data from natural archives. Most prominently for Ireland, the oak tree-ring records compiled by Mike Baillie, David Brown and others at Queen’s University Belfast, reveal annual growing-season conditions for the past seven millennia for much of Ireland.  Years of unusually low growth, registering through especially narrow rings, can identify periods of extreme drought, some of which coincide with written accounts in the Irish Annals of major societal stress such as famine and mass human and animal mortality. This is true for the year 1050, with the oaks firmly indicating severe drought, while the written description is ambiguous as to the exact weather conditions involved. 
Our cover image shows a sample of medieval Irish oak preserved for over 1500 years in acidic Ulster bog waters. Regular annual growth rings are clearly visible here, running “horizontally” up to the labelled year 532, shortly after which the tree began to grow poorly, and particularly so in the 540s. These narrow rings likely reflect poor growing conditions associated with a global climatic anomaly that began in 536 and continued until c.550, most likely caused by multiple, closely occurring volcanic eruptions (dated c.536, c.540 and c.547), and linked to famines and mortality in written sources from Ireland to China. 
This event, usually described in terms of its temperature impacts, likely also impacted rainfall, as indicated here by the reduced growth of the precipitation-sensitive oaks, consistent with our evolving understanding of the hydroclimatic impacts of explosive eruptions more generally.  That the Irish oaks tend more generally to register the latter volcanic eruption in c.540 but not clearly the first major event in c.536, highlights the complexity of region- and species-specific tree growth responses, and the benefit of complementing such evidence with documentary data. 
Drought in the recent past
While sources such as the Irish Annals and Irish oaks provide the majority of our evidence for drought occurring on annual and inter-annual time-scales before the Early Modern Period, our knowledge of Irish weather, climate and environment is transformed during the 1700s with an exponential increase in the number of surviving archival sources, many of which were specifically created to report weather conditions (such as weather diaries), along with the addition of the instrumental records. Precipitation observations from 1711 taken in Derry by Dr. Thomas Neve are amongst the earliest in northwest Europe. Dr. Neve’s diary is also one of the earliest surviving weather diaries to include instrumental data on air pressure, temperature, and rainfall, and provides written observations of snow, frost, hail, thunder, and other general comments on weather. 
By combining these sort of weather records, it is possible to reconstruct statistically representative continuous rainfall series from which droughts can be identified.These include island-wide, multi-year droughts during the periods 1854–1860, 1884–1896, 1904–1912, 1921–1923, 1932–1935, 1952–1954 and 1969–1977.  The droughts identified in this way can then be compared with other documentary sources, including newspapers and journals, to generate information on their socio-economic impacts, as well as innovative practices that communities employed to cope with and adapt to drought conditions. Ireland is fortunate in having some of the longest running newspapers in the world, some going back to the early eighteenth century, providing a rich (and often colourful – see Figure 2) source of information about the human impacts of past droughts. 
Left: Poem describing the drought of 1806 and its impacts on flora, fauna, agriculture and water. Belfast Newsletter, 28 June 1806. Right: Guinness Press advertisement during the April 1985 Irish drought. Guinness Archive Online Collection. https://guinnessarchives.adlibsoft.com/Details/archive/110017212.
Drought memories – or “we are not quite as skeptical”
The light-hearted 1985 Guinness ad shown right in Figure 2 suggests that Irish people in their fifties and older are likely to have direct personal experiences and recollections of notable droughts. A key component of the Irish Droughts project is to seek out people with strong memories and systematically record their recollections of how droughts from the 1950s onward unfolded, the physical, social and economic impacts they had, and how people adjusted. In this way, our statistical and observational data are made more tangible by accounts of the real-life consequences for individuals, families and communities. This last aspect is especially important, given our goal of not only identifying past drought events in Ireland, but also gaining transferable lessons for the future.
Learning for the future
The nearly three decades of drought-free conditions that led to drought becoming a practically forgotten hazard in Ireland came to a crashing end in 2018. During that relatively wet period, there was little physical stimulus to prompt governments, institutions and communities to better prepare for the shifts in seasonal temperature regimes, precipitation patterns, and drought frequencies and/or severities that will likely accompany future climate change. To generate additional insights on how to build resilience to future droughts, we will look abroad to southwestern Ontario, Canada, and draw upon watershed management and drought mitigation strategies already in place there. That region’s relatively modest climate, mixed urban-agricultural land use system, established source water protection legislation, and institutional experience in managing both floods and droughts make it a useful analog for Ireland.
The drought of summer 2018, although relatively short-lived in some areas by comparison to historical droughts, revealed the considerable vulnerabilities that exist in Ireland in the water, livestock, tillage, horticulture, and tourism sectors. Furthermore, the lack of institutional preparedness for future droughts is evidenced by the fact that the Irish national emergency management system currently has no means of categorizing drought warnings, with the 2018 event being classified simply as a rainfall warning. Through our research, we seek to enhance Irish understanding of drought risks, inform policy and practice, and ensure that rural Ireland is sufficiently prepared to deal with future climate change and its impacts on water supplies, agriculture, and the well-being of society.
 www.ucd.ie/droughtmemories; https://twitter.com/droughtmemories
 Kiely, G., Leahy, P., Ludlow, F., Stefanini, B., Reilly, E., Monk, M. and Harris, J. (201) Extreme weather, climate and natural disasters in Ireland. Johnstown Castle: Environmental Protection Agency.
 Ludlow, F., Stine, A. R., Leahy, P., Murphy, E., Mayewski, P., Taylor, D., Killen, J., Baillie, M., Hennessy, M. and Kiely, G. (2013) “Medieval Irish Chronicles Reveal Persistent Volcanic Forcing of Severe Winter Cold Events, 431-1649 CE”, Environmental Research Letters, 8 (2), L024035, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024035.
 Baker, L., Brock, S., Cortesi, L., Eren, A., Hebdon, C., Ludlow, F., Stoike, J. and Dove, M. (2017) “Mainstreaming Morality: An Examination of Moral Ecologies as a Form of Resistance”, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, 11 (1), 23-55. doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.27506; see also Ludlow, F. and Travis, C. (2018) “STEAM Approaches to Climate Change, Extreme Weather and Social-Political Conflict”, In: de la Garza, A. & Travis, T. (eds.), The STEAM Revolution: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Humanities and Mathematics. New York: Springer, 33-65.
 Pilcher, J. R., Baillie, M. G. L., Schmidt, B. and Becker, B. (1984) “A 7,272-year tree-ring chronology for Western Europe”, Nature, 312, 150-152.
 Cook, E. R., Seager, R., Kushnir, Y. et al. (2015) “Old World megadroughts and pluvials during the Common Era”, Science Advances 1(10) (2015), e1500561, doi:10.1126/sciadv.1500561.
 Sigl, M., Winstrup, M., McConnell, J.R., Welten, K.C., Plunkett, G., Ludlow, F., Büntgen, U., Caffee, M., Chellman, N., Dahl-Jensen, D., Fischer, H., Kipfstuhl, S., Kostick, C., Maselli, O.J., Mekhaldi, F., Mulvaney, R., Muscheler, R., Pasteri, D.R., Pilcher, J.R., Salzer, M., Schüpbach, S., Steffensen, J.P., Vinther, B., Woodruff, T.E. (2015) “Timing and Climate Forcing of Volcanic Eruptions during the Past 2,500 Years”, Nature, 523, pp.543–549.
 Rao, M. P. et al. (2017) “European and Mediterranean hydroclimate responses to tropical volcanic forcing over the last millennium,” Geophysical Research Letters, 44, 55894.
 Human and natural archives have their own biases, sensitivities, strengths and weaknesses and must each be “read” with these in mind. Where the Irish oaks are not especially forthcoming about the climatic impacts of the great 536 eruption, the sample in Figure 1 being an exception, the Irish Annals suggest its severity for Ireland in reporting the “failure of bread” for 538 (when applying the essential chronological corrections of McCarthy. D. (2008) The Irish Annals: Their Genesis, Evolution and History. Dublin: Four Courts Press), despite their vestigial character at this early date. The landmark 2015 tree-ring-based reconstruction of the Palmer Drought Severity Index for the Common Era is also tested for accuracy against historically documented periods of extreme wet and drought (Cook, E. R. et al. (2015) “Old World megadroughts and pluvials”).
 Murphy, C., et al. (2018) “A 305-year continuous monthly rainfall series for the island of Ireland (1711-2016)”, Climate of the Past, 14(3), 413-440.
 Noone, S., Broderick, C., Duffy, C., Matthews, T., Wilby, R.L. and Murphy, C. (2017) “A 250‐year drought catalogue for the island of Ireland (1765–2015)”, International Journal of Climatology, 37, 239-254.
 Murphy, C. et al. (2017) “Irish droughts in newspaper archives: Rediscovering forgotten hazards?” Weather, 72(6), 151-155.
Laura Eerkes-Medrano, University of Victoria
This past winter I was fortunate to join the Arctia Otso icebreaker in the Gulf of Bothnia, Finland, from March 2 to March 24, 2017. I had sailed the Northwest Passage aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ships Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Louis S. St-Laurent in 2015. Going to Finland to travel on an icebreaker for 20 days was my next big step as a Canadian scientist. My goals were to observe how changing ice and weather conditions affect marine shipping operations, and to learn more about the human element in terms of how the crew use instruments and information to make decisions. I also hoped to learn what additional weather and sea-ice information, and in what format, would be useful for improving weather and sea-ice forecasting, ultimately contributing to safer shipping activities.
A common challenge when preparing to join an icebreaker in Canada is to determine the exact date the ship will arrive in port. Difficult ice and weather conditions can prevent the ship from arriving at the specified date. In the Gulf of Bothnia, since distances are shorter than they are in Canada, icebreakers generally will arrive at port on the predetermined date, but changes in weather and ice conditions may affect the operational area for a ship, meaning it may go to a different port for fuel replenishment and crew changes. As I was flying from the west coast of Canada to Finland in winter, I had to allow a couple of days on either side of the Otso’s planned arrival in case the port location changed or my plane was delayed by weather.
Once on board the Otso, the first thing I learned was that, with less sea ice, paradoxically, there is more work for icebreakers. In the past, ice would form in the Bay of Bothnia in October or November. Although a declining sea ice average has been observed in recent years, the trend is not linear. Mild winters were also observed in the 70s and 80s. With less sea ice cover, new thin ice is constantly forming. This ice is broken up by winds, and because the thin ice floes are very mobile, fractures in the ice cover (leads) and pressure ridges, resulting from the interaction of ice floes colliding with each other, are constantly forming, depending on how the wind blows. More ridge formation means that there are more vessels getting stuck in these ridges and requiring assistance.
In recent years, the pattern of ice formation has changed, and new thin ice is constantly forming. Pressure ridges, resulting from the interaction of ice floes colliding with each other, are constantly forming, depending on how the wind blows. More ridge formation means that there are more vessels getting stuck in these ridges and requiring assistance. (Photo credit: LEM. March 2017, Gulf of Bothnia)
During this past winter (2016–2017), the sea ice in the Bay of Bothnia, the northernmost part of the gulf, was particularly problematic. The warm temperatures of early winter meant ice formation did not start until early January. This late ice formation gave the south and southwest winds of the January storms a longer fetch. These winds pushed the shuga—lumps of new spongy ice a few centimeters across that tend to form in rough seas—and slush ice to the northern part of the bay, where they piled up, forming a shuga-belt. This belt was several kilometers wide and a few meters deep. The stickiness and the thickness of this shuga-belt caused problems for shipping. Each vessel needed about five to six hours of icebreaker assistance to cross the belt. This contrasts with a more typical winter, where crossing the shuga that forms at the ice edge usually takes about an hour.
Weather, wind in particular, is an important element in the icebreaker business. On March 2, the day I arrived, traffic in the northern Gulf of Bothnia was completely dependent on icebreaker assistance to reach the ports of Tornio, Kemi and Oulu. The tracks opened by the icebreakers would not stay open for long due to the strong winds from the south. At the same time, there was not much ice to break in Kokkola, since all the ice had been pushed to the north.
Visibility is another factor when assisting a vessel. In foggy conditions it is often hard to determine exactly how close the moving vessel is, even with the use of radar. Luckily the crew on the Otso are highly skilled in ice navigation in all weather and ice conditions. They were able to make very good decisions about what approach to take—either breaking the ice or offering a tow—when assisting a vessel.
In the past, forming a convoy was the preferred option for assisting vessels in this environment. This is now less frequently a choice. The vessel tracks do not remain open because the wind, gaining strength over the long fetch of open water, pushes the ice floes against the shore ice, forming ridges and compressed areas, making navigation difficult.
Vessels waiting for icebreaker assistance also face an additional threat that can add a time pressure on operations. In the past, a beset vessel would simply remain in the ice while waiting for an icebreaker. Now, under conditions of thinner, more mobile ice, there is a greater danger of a beset vessel drifting towards shallow areas. To ensure safety drifting vessels are given higher priority, which often means assisting them one at a time instead of using the convoy approach.
The icebreaker’s response to vessels in need of assistance depends on the circumstances. Every situation is different, and various factors need to be considered when making the decision, including the type of event, the beset vessel’s ice class, the training and experience of its crew, how the crew on the assisted vessel are maneuvering and how they are using radars and instruments. It also depends on the instruments and information available to the icebreaker crew, and the accuracy of that information. Depending on the wind speed, the icebreaker crew could decide to assist a vessel. However, if the wind is blowing at 25 m/s or more, the icebreaker will not move; it is unsafe to assist vessels under these conditions due to the possibility of ice drifting and ridging, and the chance the track opened by the icebreaker will not remain open long enough to assist the vessel.
The main criteria in the decision to respond is safety and the timeliness of delivering assistance. Other factors that Arctia icebreakers consider are fuel consumption, the number of vessels an icebreaker will be able to assist per trip, and the efficiency of icebreaker operations. The Otso’s crew always strive to find ways to do things better while maintaining quality and remaining competitive.
This was a great learning experience and an example of the industry-academia partnerships supported by Tom Ekegren, senior vice president at Arctia Icebreaking Ltd., and the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR). This project was funded by MEOPAR, a Canadian Centre of Excellence. Captain Duke Snider at MartechPolar has been a key supporter of this project and facilitated this opportunity with Arctia Ltd.
Lessons from the Past: Unfolding the Dynamics among Climate, Balkan Landscapes, and Humans over the Past Millennium
Dr. Charuta Kulkarni, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
Drawing upon pollen, charcoal, and geochemical analyses of two Serbian lakes for the first time, this doctoral dissertation explores the environmental history of the Central Balkan region over the past 600 years, which includes the Little Ice Age (LIA). The extent of the LIA largely coincided with the emergence, rise, and decline of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Industrial Era; all of which deeply influenced the Balkan landscapes. Integrating new Serbian palaeoecological records with other natural and human archives from the region, this project examines a diverse blend of socio-political-climatic "stressors" and traces their profound impacts on predominantly agro-pastoral Balkan subsistence. By statistically analyzing ecological (woodland, land erosion, land clearance, agriculture), social (population, famines) and climatic (droughts, extreme cold years) variables, it discovers adverse effects of the LIA on the Balkan societies and reveals how they responded in transitioning socio-political regimes.
These long-term socio-ecological topics are especially relevant today. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Balkan countries are among the most affected regions in terms of a changing water cycle due to extreme climatic events such as increased flooding and droughts. The European Environmental Agency (EEA) also attests that the already hot and semi-arid climate of southern Europe is expected to become warmer and drier, which will threaten its waterways, agricultural production and timber harvests. All this as Serbia’s likely entry into the European Union may put a larger stress on the Serbian society, will present challenges for its economy. The sustainability of agriculture and its resilience in the face of changing environmental and social conditions will doubtless inspire political debates both within and outside the country. These discussions highlight the importance of scholarship that looks deep into the past which provides analogs that help us understand how socio-economic systems function - and how they transform - amid global climate changes. Although the picture is yet far from complete and more palaeoecological work is needed to elucidate the interplays and feedbacks of climate variability in the context of human landscapes and activities in the Balkan region, the Serbian proxy records explored in this dissertation shed new light on the nature of responses and interactions of past societies with drastic climatic events.
Dr. Charuta Kulkarni recently completed her PhD from Earth and Environmental Sciences Program, CUNY Graduate Center, New York and is currently searching for research opportunities to extend her environmental history research in Asia, India in particular.
Dr. Teresa C. Ashe, Independent Researcher.
Climate Change: Discourses of Making and Unmaking is a book that interests itself in the role of climate scepticism in climate change politics, developing a history of the science, politics and policy of climate change, which allows us to consider how climate change came to have the meaning it now has and how this meaning has been changed and challenged.
The first section of the book examines early understandings of climate and climatic change, considering how the idea of anthropogenic global warming emerged as a response to the idea of Ice Ages. It looks at the social and technical factors that conditioned when and how this theory became convincing and to whom.
The book then looks at how this theory was framed politically in the US, so as to garner adherents, researchers, funding and insitutionalised research programs. This section explains the shift away from seeing climate research as a step towards Cold War weather control and shows how it became an ‘environmental’ issue.
Finally, the book considers how climate change was problematized and placed on the policy agenda and the subsequent attempts to create an international regime to address the problem. It focusses particularly on the role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as an epistemic community for the creation and functioning of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Underpinning this project is an interest in how heterodox and orthodox discourses of environmental politics emerge. The research looks particularly at American environmental scepticism and at the role of ‘climate scepticism’ in climate change politics, which works to undermine the idea that policy need me made at all.
The book argues that a discursive understanding of environmental politics best recognises the presence of both orthodox and heterodox epistemic communities, while foregrounding the relationship between power and knowledge as it underpins environmental politics.
Dr. Martin Bauch, Deutsches historisches Institut in Rom.
I am in the third circle, filled with cold,
unending, heavy, and accursed rain;
its measure and its kind are never changed.
Gross hailstones, water gray with filth, and snow come
streaking down across the shadowed air;
the earth, as it receives that shower, stinks.
- Dante, Inferno, Canto VI
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. Across Europe, meteorological events in the 1310s caused harvest failures, floods, famines, and mass deaths. In particular, Dante’s description of the wet third ring of hell is very similar to weather conditions that caused famine in Italy between 1310-12, and offers a prominent clue the onset of the Little Ice Age left in Europe’s cultural heritage.
Other traces of the cold, wet years appear in variety of sources: inscriptions from Central Europe which recall the thousands of starved individuals buried outside the city walls, and countless chronicles reporting death, famine, corpses on the streets, and riots linked to rising food prices. The hostile weather and massive soil erosion can also be reconstructed using scientific methods: ice cores from Alpine glaciers, sediment cores from lakes, and tree rings all reveal the rainy years that oaks all over Europe enjoyed, as these trees thrive on chilly and humid weather. Using these tools, scientists and climate historians have come to agree that climatic conditions changed seriously at the beginning of the 14th century, ending the presumed milder conditions of the so-called Medieval Climatic Anomaly and initiating the so-called Little Ice Age. When referring to the extreme wet and cool conditions in Northwestern Europe that were responsible for the Great Famine (1315-21), written sources and dendrochronological data agree that the 1310s were a decade of climatic stress. The damage of this decade, called the Dantean Anomaly by, was long thought to be restricted to the British Isles, Northern France, the Benelux countries and Northern Germany. But as not only the Inferno’s vision of hell indicates, the cool period was probably a trans-continental event.
Reanalyses are educated estimates of how the atmosphere behaved in the recent past. They are built by combining computer models of the atmosphere and ocean with weather observations to build an approximation of what the entire atmosphere was doing every six hours or so.
Climatologists and meteorologists all over the world use reanalyses to research our climate and weather. Most of the reanalysis products that exist cover the entire planet, but if you want to study storms over Paris for example, or wind changes in the Spanish Pyrenees, then it’s better to use a regional reanalysis, which has a higher spatial resolution.
Recovering historical weather observations for long-term climate analysis is a well-established practice in many places in Europe, where written documents cover several centuries. In Australia, written records only begin with British settlement in the late 18th century, as the indigenous Aboriginal people maintain their history through largely oral traditions.
However, this does not mean that there is no historical climate information for the Great Southern Land. Recent efforts are uncovering a treasure trove of historical weather and climate data that are shedding light on both the regional and global climate. Here are just a few examples:
Daniel Barber, Climatic Effects: Architecture, Media, and the Globalization of the International Style
Architects have long had an interest in the relationship of their design interventions to surrounding climatic conditions. Concerns over site, orientation to the sun, and the relationship of materials to heat and humidity are all embedded in vernacular design traditions, and have been essential to the provision of human shelter for centuries. With the emergence of modern architectural techniques beginning in the 19th century, the relationship of a building to its climate, and the figuration of this relationship, underwent significant transformation.
Climatic Effects documents and analyzes the robust and dynamic discourse around climate that developed as part of architecture’s modernization, and became the focus of many practices and pedagogies in the 1950s. The post-war years saw extensive experimentation in how architectural practices could project buildings with a more precise relationship to their surrounding ecological conditions – in the efficiency of production, in the use of solar power, and, the primary subject of this project, in the alignment of the form, orientation, and materials of a building to its climate. As part of these new methods, forms of representation were developed that sought to clarify the possible social, material, and economic relationships that could result. It was through these images, as much as through the buildings that were constructed, that design methods encouraged new ideas about how to live. The drawings, diagrams, and photographs produced in this methodological discourse, quasi-technical in nature, led to novel parameters for how architecture could operate in the social milieu, and also encouraged design professionals to consider new criteria for their designs.
Introduced by Professor Dagomar Degroot.
This semester, I taught a course about the environmental history of climate change. My students were a diverse and passionate group. None were history or science majors, and two were foreign exchange students. I challenged them with a difficult essay assignment that encouraged them to think like a professor of environmental history. This is a condensed version of the assignment instructions:
"Choose a topic relevant to the history of climate change. Be as creative as possible! Next, hunt for primary and secondary sources that will let you write an essay about your topic. You can also search through Georgetown’s libraries, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other resources in Washington, DC. Your secondary sources should include at least six books, where one book is equivalent to two articles. A scholar who is not a historian must have written at least two of your books (or four of your articles).
Matthias Heymann, Janet Martin-Nielsen, Gabriel Henderson, and Dania Achermann, Shaping Cultures of Prediction: Knowledge, Authority, and the Construction of Climate Change
Sponsored by the Danish Research Council (2013-2016), this project examines the emergence of climate modelling as a culture of prediction (ca. 1960 to 1985). Climate modelling has played a major role in forging a scientific consensus about climatic change. Scientific consensus, however, tends to hide the social relations, complex negotiations and tangible interests behind the consensus itself. It straightens the diversity of scientific perceptions and the complexities of historical processes that have shaped it.
This project aims at analyzing the scientific conflicts, social processes and underlying presumptions that contributed to (1) the emergence of climate modelling as a predominant research strategy, and (2) the controversial application of these models as predictive tools in science and policy. It will show how climate modelling and its uses emerged from a competition between different knowledge claims and epistemic standards and attained what some argue to be a hegemonic status within a diversity of knowledge cultures.