Hunger and Famine in Medieval Societies

The Junior Research Group is holding a special session on hunger and famine in medieval societies as part of the International Medieval Congress at Leeds. The session is organized in two panels which aim to explore the causes, courses, and consequences of famines in the Middle Ages. There is a special focus on adverse climate impacts, which, along with changing social, economic, and political conditions, often exacerbated food crises and resulted in famines. The International Medieval Congress will be held at the University of Leeds from July 4 to 7, 2016. Click here for more information.

Climate Change and History Research Initiative Annual Colloquium

On Monday, May 23, 2016 the Climate Change and History Research Initiative at Princeton University will be hosting a multidisciplinary conference. The theme of the conference is resilience to climate change in Eurasia and the Mediterranean. There will be four panels, with two to three speakers presenting in each, as well as a concluding session. Each panel will be followed by a roundtable discussion. The event will take place at 216 Aaron Burr, Princeton University, between 9:00am and 6:00pm. Click here to download a conference poster with more information.

The Global Cooling Event of the Sixth Century. Mystery No Longer?

Dr. Tim Newfield, Princeton University. 

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. Pinatubo released up to 20 megatons of sulphur dioxide as many as 35 kilometers into the sky. It turned into fine sulphuric acid aerosol, and, within weeks, enveloped much of the Earth. The aerosols were suspended in the atmosphere for around two years. While there, they "veiled" the sun by absorbing or "backscattering" solar radiation. That heated the stratosphere but cooled Earth's surface. Read more

NASA’s Role in Climate History

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created in 1958. The agency’s initial purpose was to develop aerospace technologies that would help the U.S. compete with the Soviet Union in the Space Race. However, NASA’s programs soon expanded into other areas. As the agency’s programs evolved in the latter half of the twentieth century, NASA became more involved in Earth Sciences. In 1984 Congress revised the Space Act to be more inclusive of research on Earth’s climate. Today NASA satellites play an important role in collecting data that scientist use to study climate change. A brief article on NASA’s website explores the agency’s initial expansion into Earth Sciences and its growing role in providing the technological means to document changes in the Earth's climate. Click here to read the article.

Contextualizing Western Drought

Dr. Ruth Morgan, National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University

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. Our discussion drew this Western experience into transnational conversation with histories of drought in Australia, further west across the Pacific. By providing a humanistic perspective of drought, the lens of environmental history complements the scientific study of climate conditions and offers valuable insights into how droughts have been understood and experienced over time. Read more

Climate Change and History Initiative Workshop

The Climate Change and History Research Initiative (CCHRI) of Princeton University is holding a workshop on palaeoclimatology and palynology from September 12 to 14, 2016. This workshop is geared towards younger scholars, such as junior faculty members and graduate students, from the humanities and social sciences. The focus of the workshop is on the reconstruction of past climates using natural archives such as sediments. Neil Roberts, of Plymouth University, and Warren Eastwood, of the University of Birmingham, will lead the workshop. Those interested should submit a statement of interest (up to 500 words), a CV, and a letter of recommendation to Jayne Bialkowski ( with the subject line titled“Application for Palynology Workshop.” The deadline is June 1, 2016 and successful applicants will be notified in early July. For more information click here.

E-Table of Contents for QSR Special Issue

A special issue of Quaternary Science Reviews titled “Mediterranean Holocene Climate, Environment, and Human Societies” has just been published. The editors, Alexandra Gogou, Adam Izdebski, and Karin Holmgren, have put together an e-table of contents that includes free links to all the research papers in the special issue. These links will remain active until Thursday, April 21, with the exception of two open access papers that will continue to be available.

The e-table of contents can be downloaded here.