Climate History Network

A Scientific Expedition to Southeast Greenland

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Permanent twilight and the northern lights during a night watch.

Permanent twilight and the northern lights during a night watch.

By Benoit S. Lecavalier.

The Greenland ice sheet is melting fast, and it contains enough water to raise global sea levels by over seven meters if it were to disappear entirely. However, thousands of years ago the ice sheet was much larger, with a total of 12 metres ice-equivalent sea-level. There are many questions that remain unanswered about how Greenland lost all this ice from past to present. For example: how and where did the Greenland ice sheet lose mass? What climate history resulted in such a drastic change in the ice sheet? This summer, these were the questions that led a multidisciplinary team of scientists to Southeast Greenland. We were embarking on an expedition to better understand its climate history, and so resolve part of a much bigger story. Read more.

Written by Dagomar Degroot

September 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Posted in In the News

“Human Climate” and the Interface of Earth-Sea and Sky: a Meditation on the Verticality of this Ecotone

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HurricaneBy Teresa Devor.

John Gillis, who has a distinct quality of being an interface between humanity and thought, calls us to attend to interfaces, ecotones, meeting places of ecological and cultural differences. He argues that from cells to states, interfaces are porous, and full of possibility. “Margins” are not margin-al, rather, they are zonal, full, places unto themselves. Places to be, to build, and to pay attention to. This invitation to shift perspective – the educators’ magic carpet – literally sky-rocketed my conception of the possibilities at interfaces. In David Christian’s Big History, Maps of Time, he argues that it is the temperature differentials in space that are catalytically creative, gestating galaxies, and generating longue-durée cycles of creation and destruction. Similarly, differences in temperatures and air pressure drive the climate system on Earth. Gillis noted the vertical, as well as horizontal, dimensions of ecotones. He suggested that the verticality of the ecotone joining land and sea surfaces with the atmosphere has taken on a new significance with climate change. It is perhaps the last large ecotonal place which humans must actively collaborate with in our evolution. The energy we have cajoled and coerced the Earth to resurrect in the form of fossil fuels makes the conceptualization of “human climate” that much more poignant and physical. However, aside from this concrete dimension, climate is something that humans imagine and construct in our minds, based on our experiences of place, at the invisible conjuncture of nature and culture. There is no climate without the myriad ways we interact with weather on a daily basis through our technologies of seasonality, from snowshoes to Christmas/festivals of light, which make us at home in our particular climates, and which mediate their potential effects. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dagomar Degroot

August 25, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Posted in In the News

Research Funding Opportunity: International Research Institute on Humanity and Nature (Japan)

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<from Meteohistory listserv>

The International Research Institute on Humanity and Nature (総合地球環境学研究所), a leading science and environmental policy research institute, is engaged in a series of explorations of long-term human-nature interactions associated with climatalogical and environmental change in Japan, the “Societal Adaptation to Climate Change: Integrating Palaeoclimatological Data with Historical and Archaeological Evidences” program (project web sites noted below).  Part of the institute’s research funding is thus available to support a broad array of disciplinary studies related to this theme. This includes consideration of comparative perspectives, theory and method.

Competition for awards for the next Japanese fiscal year (April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016) is now open. Information on research funding, application procedures and deadlines can be found at:


Project descriptions can be found at:


These sites also include contact information at the Institute.

Written by Sam White

August 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Funding

CfP: History and Climate Change – What Have We Learnt

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<from the ICHM listserve>

CfP: History and Climate Change: What have we learnt?

We are currently inviting 20-25 minute contributions from scholars, activists, policy-makers and members of the public to explore two related questions. Firstly, to think about how climate concern is forcing us to rethink our understandings of history, often in quite radical ways. Second, how history and historians should inform our understandings of climate change and actively contribute to changing society to ensure an ecologically wholesome future. We are particularly keen to explore how our historical understanding and rhetoric around climate change have changed in the last five years and how they might need to change in the future.

Questions we hope that papers will address include:

  • How might history become ‘activist history’ in an era of ecological emergency?
  • Whether historical rhetorics of ‘crisis’ and ‘apocalypse’ are productive or counter-productive?
  • History and scale: the roles of local and global narratives in an era ecological emergency
  • What might be learnt about social transformation from radical social movements such as Occupy?
  • Can activist historians learn from the Transition Town movement?
  • Is there an unexamined gender aspect to climate change? Why do climate debates so often seem to be dominated by men?
  • Are religious understandings a necessary and neglected aspect of environmental discourse?
  • How can local history and local historians contribute to local sustainability? (e.g. how can oral histories contribute to local energy descent models?)

The organisers are committed to the Active History tradition of scholarship that listens and is responsive; that will make a tangible difference in people’s lives; that makes an intervention and is transformative to both practitioners and communities. We seek a practice of scholarship that emphasizes collegiality, builds community among active scholars and other members of communities, and recognizes the public responsibilities of scholarship.

Written by Sam White

July 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Towards Policy-Driven Research in Historical Climatology

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International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015, London, 5-10 July 2015

“Towards policy-driven research in historical climatology”

Convened by George Adamson (King’s College London)

The interrelationship climate and society during the past 500-1000 years is a fast-growing area of research within historical climatology. Substantial work has been undertaken to uncover climatic agency in the Little Ice Age, on the role of climate in the collapse of major societies such as the Classic Maya, and on adaptation strategies within pre-industrial communities. Yet historical approaches have thus-far largely failed to engage with the policy agenda. This is partly due to an epistemological divide that exists between practitioners of historical climatology and the development research community that largely dictate adaptation paradigms.

This session addresses studies that have attempted to cross this divide and develop historical climate-society research with an explicit contemporary relevance and/or policy focus. Papers may address (but are not limited to) the following areas:

  • Empirical data on historical major climate events for the preparation of disaster management plans (floods, droughts, cyclones, etc.),
  • The use of historical data to challenge dominant narratives regarding climate change (e.g. the severity or regularity of extreme events) or to facilitate alternative policy responses,
  • New or novel approaches to the study of historical climate-society interactions that move beyond analogy methodologies,
  • Studies that seek to reveal a deeper understanding of adaptive practices through historical analysis and the study of cultural memory.

Interested participants should send an abstract of no more than 200 words to Dr George Adamson (King’s College London) before 1st September 2014. Email:

Further details of the International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015 are available at:

Written by Sam White

July 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Cultural Histories and Memories of Extreme Weather Events

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<from the ICHM listserve>

Call for Abstracts:
Abstracts are invited for inclusion in a proposed session at the International Conference of Historical Geographers, London, 5-10 July 2015
Cultural histories and memories of extreme weather events
Extreme weather events are as much social texts as material occurrences. Geographical context, particular physical conditions, an area’s social and economic activities and embedded cultural knowledges, norms, values, practices and infrastructures all affect community experiences, reactions and responses to extreme weather. The way in which an extreme event is perceived in turn determines whether it becomes inscribed into social memory in the form of oral history, ideology, custom, behaviour, narrative, artefact, technological and physical adaptation, including adaptations to the working landscape and built environment. These different forms of remembering and recording weather in the past act to curate, recycle and transmit extreme events across generations and into the future. Cultural memories, experiences and knowledge of past weather events and personalised weather narratives and autobiographical memories of past events may thus serve an important orientating function and could play significant role in popular understanding and articulation of current debates about weather and climate. This session will draw together scholars whose research uses archival/ documentary based investigations and oral history approaches to i.) construct climate histories, including histories of extreme weather and associated impacts in a range of case study regions and ii.) to explore whether and how extreme weather events affected the individuals lives of local people and became inscribed into the cultural and infrastructural fabric and social memory of local communities. We welcome abstracts from people working on climate (re)construction as well as those interested in weather observers and their historical geographies.
We welcome submissions across a broad range of sub themes and from early career scholars as well as those in established posts. Please contact  or for further information.
Abstracts should not exceed 200 words.
Deadline for abstract submission (to August 25th

Written by Sam White

July 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm

CfP: Famines during the Little Ice Age

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<posted on H-Environment>

silbermedaille_1773CfP: Famines during the ‘Little Ice Age’ (1300-1800) Socio-natural entanglements in premodern societies Workshop of the Heidelberg Center for the Environment, 19th/20th February 2015, ZiF, Bielefeld

Global climate change has put famines back on the agenda. The predicted rise of extreme weather raises the question, how similar events were met in historical societies. However, such studies are challenged by disciplinary constraints. Famines occur at the interface of nature and culture. They involve both the bio-physical as well as the social sphere. Their entanglement highlights the co-evolvement of natural environment and social actions. This broad socio-ecological character extends beyond the reach of individual disciplines. As a result, popular references to the dramatic impact of famines during the premodern era are often based on conjectures.  The workshop will bring together researchers from the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities. With reference to recent interdisciplinary concepts (disaster studies, vulnerability studies, environmental history) it will examine, how the dominant opposition of natural and cultural factors can be overcome. Such an integrated approach includes the “archives of nature” as well as “archives of man”. In this way, deterministic models can be tested and replaced with a dynamic, historicising approach to the events. During the discussion we are seeking answers to the following topics:

  • Which data, sources and case studies can make integrative approaches work?
  • Which concepts and research designs overcome both climatically and culturally deterministic models?
  • How can we improve our understanding of the entanglement and co-development of environment and society as well as the cultural consequences of extreme natural impacts?
  • How can we uncover the complex historical perceptions, interpretations and coping strategies?

The workshop covers the agrarian societies of the “little ice age” (1300-1800), where famines constituted the “normal exceptions” to every-day life. The focus is on contributions that treat cases in Europe as well as Asia. We also welcome comparative, inter-cultural studies, interdisciplinary approaches and methodological considerations.  The event is organised by the research group “Environment and Society. Facing Famine in the Early Modern World” at the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE) and will be held at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) in Bielefeld. Travel costs and hotel accommodation of the speakers will be covered by the ZiF. The conference papers are scheduled to be published in an edited volume.

Venue: Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung, Universität Bielefeld, Methoden 1, D-33615 Bielefeld

Participation: Researchers interested in joining us, are asked to send an abstract of the paper (max. 500 words) as well as a short biography by September 15th to:

Contact: Dr. Maximilian Schuh, Heidelberg Center for the Environment, Historisches Seminar, Grabengasse 3-5, 69117 Heidelberg, Ph. +49-6221-54-6560,

Written by Sam White

July 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm


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