Climate History Network

Climate Variability and Human Population in Prehistoric Australia

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<from H-Env>

landscapeNew podcast episode: Climate variability and population dynamics in prehistoric Australia

by Jan Oosthoek

The first people to settle in Australia, ancestors of present day Aboriginals, arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago. They encountered a cooler and drier continent than at present. From about 35,000 years ago global temperatures and water availability declined even further culminating in the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), about 21,000 years ago. At this time, the Australian continent entered its driest and coolest period since modern humans colonized it. By 12,000 years ago the climate warmed rapidly, sea levels rose and climate began to ameliorate.

A new episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast explores the responses and adaptations by Aboriginal people to climate change over the past 50,000 years. The guest on this episode of the podcast is Alan Williams, an archaeologist and graduate student in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra.

To listen to this episode visit:

Also watch the visualisation of the intro on YouTube.

You can also follow any updates on Twitter at: @EH_Resources

Written by samwhite2426

October 29, 2014 at 1:44 pm

In honor of two 70th birthdays in climatology…

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This past week saw two 70th birthday celebrations for two outstanding scholars and mentors in historical climatology and climate science, respectively.  On Saturday, colleagues in Switzerland celebrated the birthday of Christian Pfister.  With his permission, I attach Franz Mauelshagen’s panegyric for the occasion here.  On Monday students, collaborators, friends, and distinguished scholars (and unaccountably, me too) joined at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York for a symposium in honor of Mark Cane.  The full program can be found here.

Written by Sam White

October 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm

New Study: The 1934 Dust Bowl was the worst drought of the last millennium in North America

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Farmer_walking_in_dust_storm_Cimarron_County_Oklahoma2A new study by Cook and collaborators at NASA and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that 1934, the start of the Dust Bowl, was the worst North American drought of the past millennium.  Using the updated tree-ring based North American Drought Atlas, the authors found that the drought was exceptionally intense and affected over 70% of Western North America, making it considerably worse than even the “megadrought” of the 1580s (if not of the same duration).  The authors argue that despite a strong La Niña event, sea surface temperature forcing was not a major factor (cf. Schubert et al. 2004).  The exceptional strength of the event offers some circumstantial support for the authors’ earlier article arguing that dust from the eroded soils of the Dust Bowl amplified the drought, particularly during the spring.

Written by samwhite2426

October 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm

International Conference on Volcanoes, Climate, and Society

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Caldera_Mt_Tambora_Sumbawa_IndonesiaInternational Conference on Volcanoes, Climate, and Society,
“Bicentenary of the great Tambora eruption”,
7 – 11 April 2015 at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

Two hundred years after the eruption of Mount Tambora in April 1815, an event that changed global climate, the University of Bern and the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research OCCR organize the international conference “Volcanoes, Climate and Society”. It will revisit the event from different scientific perspectives and explore how our ancestors managed the crisis that followed the eruption.

The April 1815 eruption of Tambora changed global climate, it caused a „Year Without a Summer“ which affected societies, and it transformed science. Two hundred years later, we want to look back at this event, and look forward. What is the state of knowledge on the 1815 eruption and its aftermath? What has science learned from the event, and what more can we learn from it?

In the conference, we will revisit the 1815 eruption from a volcanologists perspective, we will approach the eruption from the point of view of climate proxies, we will search its traces in historical climate reconstructions and we will reenact the event in model simulations. The conference will also explore how our ancestors managed the crisis that followed the eruption.

The conference will cover the following topics:
• Volcanic eruptions, atmospheric processes and aerosols: models and observations
• Volcanic eruptions recorded in paleoenvironmental archives
• Historical climatology and documentary data
• Impacts and societal responses
• Arts and culture

Clive Oppenheimer (U. Cambridge, UK), Stephen Self (UC Berkeley, USA)

Hans Graf (U. Cambridge, UK), Alan Robock (Rutgers U. USA), Susan Solomon (MIT, USA), Markus Rex (AWI, Potsdam, DE), Phil Jones (CRU, U. East Anglia, UK), Gilbert P. Compo (NOAA ESRL / CIRES CDC, USA), Jürg Luterbacher (U. Giessen, DE), Dennis Wheeler (Emeritus, UK), Eduardo Zorita (HZG, Geesthacht, DE), Claudia Timmreck (MPI Hamburg, DE), Christian Pfister (U. Bern, CH), Gillen D‘Arcy Wood (U. Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA), John Thornes (U. Birmingham, UK)

We encourage papers on topics relating to all aspects listed above under Format and Sessions. Abstract details can be found on
Abstract Submission Deadline: 31 October 2014

Written by samwhite2426

October 22, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Posted in In the News

Past Climate Change and the 2 °C Limit

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WarmingBy Dagomar Degroot.

Last month, world leaders met at UN Headquarters in New York City for Climate Summit 2014. As protests raged across the globe, diplomats established the framework for a major agreement next year. The aim will be to limit anthropogenic warming to no more than 2 °C, a threshold established by scientists and policymakers, beyond which climate change is increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.

Just days after the 2014 summit, policy expert David Victor and influential astrophysicist Charles Kennel published an article in Nature that called on governments to “ditch the 2 °C warming goal.” Kennel and Victor argue that the rise in average global temperatures has stalled since 1998, as warming is increasingly absorbed by the world’s oceans. Variations in global temperature therefore do not directly reflect climate change, and governments should adopt other benchmarks for action. Atmospheric concentrations of Carbon Dioxide, they contend, more accurately reveal the relentless advance of climate change. In any case, limiting the rise in global temperatures to just 2 °C would impose unrealistic costs on national economies. Read more

Written by Dagomar

October 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Posted in In the News

Changes at

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storm was founded shortly before the Climate History Network, as a way of introducing climate history and historical climatology to academics, policymakers, and the general public, in way that highlighted their relevance to global warming. Over the years, it has grown from a research blog maintained by Dagomar Degroot, into a larger online resource that now annually receives approximately 100,000 unique hits. This site is about the emerging discipline of climate history, but is all about linking the insights of that discipline to environmental issues that are relevant today.

This week, PhD Candidate Benoit S. Lecavalier joined as an editor who help update two new sections: the first lists the best climate stories published on the web each month, and the second presents some of the most intriguing new scholarly articles relevant to climate history.

We are also regularly updating our “projects” page, which will now provide short descriptions of ongoing, interdisciplinary research undertaken by historical climatologists and climate historians. This week, Dagomar Degroot and postdoctoral fellow Josh MacFadyen (re)launched our projects page with descriptions of their ongoing projects. We plan to add new projects every month, so please contact Dagomar if you’d like us to feature your work.

Written by Dagomar

October 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Posted in In the News

Call For Papers: Ruling Climate: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Governmentality, 1500-1800

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Warwick University House‘Ruling Climate’ aims to explore the relationship between cultural perceptions of the environment and practical attempts at environmental regulation and change between 1500 and 1800. The conference will be held at the University of Warwick on 16 May 2015. Submit proposals by 10 December 2014.

In the early modern period, the environment became a privileged locus of scientific debate and governmental action. Discussions spread across Europe and its colonies as to how to improve the land, and possibly even the climate of a given place; practical efforts were made to enhance the healthiness, productivity, and overall pleasantness of the environment (both natural and built) in the belief that environmental ‘improvement’, as it was then called, would immediately bring about human improvement—a larger, healthier, happier population that would make the country more powerful. Such debates and practices were driven by a persistent belief in the influence that landscape, weather and climate would exert on human beings, both at a physical and a spiritual level. ‘Climate theories’—first advanced by ancient authors such as Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Ptolemy—remained a popular explanatory paradigm throughout the early modern period, actively dictating trends in environmental management, social governance, and the administration of both private and public health, as well as shaping colonial attitudes to foreign climates and peoples. Yet the period between 1500 and 1800 was also one of substantial intellectual, scientific, and technological change in which new conceptions of nature, climate, and weather were developed. The human footprint on Earth grew heavier, whilst the first moves towards conservation and sustainable resource management were made. Finally, it was in this period that changing climatic patterns were observed for the first time, partly because of a cooling trend that reached its peak around 1650 (the so-called Little Ice Age).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dagomar

September 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Posted in In the News


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