A new article by Robert Morrissey in Past and Present examines how climate change affected the ecology of what is today southern Illinois and its indigenous inhabitants during the seventeen and eighteenth century. The author deftly navigates perspectives of indigenous people, Jesuit observers, and data in climate proxy records to show how drought during the Maunder Minimum affected the regeneration of forests on their western borders with the prairie. Indigenous Illinois practices held the mosaic of environments in their territory relatively stable until drought diminished the forest’s ability to regenerate, possibly driving them to relocate their settlements further north. Read the full article here.
A recent paper in the journal Nature highlights the disparity in how different regions of the world experienced climate change before the industrial revolution. Researchers created a model based on climate proxy data and found that major warm and cool periods were asynchronous across space. The Little Ice Age, for example, was at its coldest during the fifteenth century in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, the seventeenth century in Europe and southeastern North America, and during the mid-19thcentury for much of the rest of the world. Read more about it here.
A new climate history of the Pantepui region of southeastern Venezuela and southwestern Guyana demonstrates methods for tracking past climate change in tropical regions. The authors also use their reconstruction to track changes in the biosphere, hypothesizing that the region’s unique biota was preserved through these changes by migrating into lowland areas that today would not support them. The authors also address the difficulties of working in tropical areas where climate proxies usually lack sufficient resolution to create detailed records. Find more about the piece here.
New research by Geoffrey Gebbie uses proxy data to show that deep Atlantic waters require several centuries to respond to changes in sea surface temperature. As such, deep ocean waters initially cooled during the Medieval Climate Anomaly, and the cooling of the Little Ice Age was not felt at the sea floor for hundreds of years. The trophic cascades of oceanic ecosystems make these findings of particular interest for historical climatologists studying maritime environments. Read the full article here.
Nicholas Cunigan, our newsletter editor, has published the latest issue of our Climate History Newsletter. Inside, you’ll find project updates - including exciting news about HistoricalClimatology.com - along with notices of upcoming events, links to important online articles, and our usual list of new scholarship, featuring books that should greatly advance our field.
Download the issue by clicking here.
Two new pieces of research profile the climate history of the island of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. An article by Dagomar Degroot outlines how changes in the amount of local sea ice alternately facilitated or hindered conflict between Dutch and English whalers in the area, demonstrating how climate change played out on a local scale. Wesley Farnsworth’s recent dissertation provides a detailed overview of glaciation on the island during the Holocene, suggesting in particular that the Little Ice Age brought about quite dramatic advances for glaciers on the island. Read more in Dr. Degroot’s article here, or Dr. Farnsworth’s dissertation here.
A new article by Francisco Saulo Rodríguez Lajusticia profiles the usefulness of various Spanish archival sources for understanding climatic events including drought, floods, storms, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. Drawing attention to various types of documentation and archival repositories where they can be found, it offers a point of entry for new scholars looking to study climatic trends in Spain, southern Europe, and anywhere else affected by the same climate patterns. Also included is an appendix of several documents reprinted in full. Read the full article here.