A forthcoming paper in Environment and History analyzes the climate history of Zululand during the 19th century. Relying on historical climate data produced in collaboration with this analysis, the paper complicates narratives relating social unrest in Zululand by emphasizing that responses to climatic changes were contingent on local leadership, changing social structures, and even changes in leadership. The paper offers not only an informative look at Zululand, but an example of productive collaboration between historians and researchers in the sciences, as well as an example of the complex relationships between climate and society. Read the full paper here.
A recent article published in Global Environmental Change reviews the approaches that researchers have taken to historical climatology. Surveying major trends in the field over the past 25 years, it also argues that historical records have thus far been an underexploited tool and can provide a rich baseline for understanding the processes of adaptation. Historical analysis, the authors argue, can also draw attention to how institutional and individual agency and the uneven distribution of power shaped past responses to climate change. The article cautions that this power relationship is sometimes naturalized by the way that “adaptation” has been used in existing literature, and that historical climatologists need to draw attention to power relationships or else risk reproducing them. On the whole, the article should be a useful reference and teaching tool.
Read the article here
Written records, early instrumental observations, and artefacts such as flood markers - the archives of societies - play a vital role in high-resolution climate reconstruction. CRIAS aims to improve methods of analysing these sources and the data drawn from them in order to better understand historical climate variability and its human dimensions.
For more information, visit the website here or sign up to the CRIAS mailing list.
A new study on glaciation in arid central Asia urges caution in reading glacial proxy sources. The study’s authors emphasize that glacier growth in arid regions is more linked to local precipitation than temperature, as evidenced by the retreat of many central Asian glaciers during the global Last Glacial Maximum. While the vast majority of the world’s glaciers are in retreat today, shifting precipitation patterns due to modern climate change has also brought growth to some of these glaciers, suggesting that glacier chronologies from arid areas need to be used carefully in reconstructions.
Read the original paper here.
A new article published in the International Journal of Climatology offers a document-based hydrochronology of southwestern Africa during the second half of the 19th century. Based on the journals of missionaries to central Namibia held in archives in Europe and Africa, the record demonstrates abnormally high interannual variability compared to contemporary records for other parts of Africa. Given the relative paucity of instrumental and proxy records for Africa, this article is a welcome addition to the body of historical climatology work. Read the full article here.
A new article in the Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate re-examines the role of solar forcing in the Maunder Minimum, concluding that decreased solar activity was one of many factors contributing to cooler weather during the period and is insufficient on its own to explain the shift. Drawing on updated models of solar activity and paleoclimate reconstructions, the authors argue that reduced solar irradiance was comparable to changing land use as a causal factor, in addition to significant volcanic forcing. Read the whole article here.
Nicholas Cunigan, our newsletter editor, has published the Fall 2017 issue of our Climate History Newsletter. You'll find podcast links, feature article summaries, calls for papers, conference updates, and our usual list of new scholarship. It's a big list, owing to a number of recent, groundbreaking publications in our field.
Download the issue by clicking here.