New Online Database of Chinese Sources for Climate History

A new open-access article in Scientific Data presents the REACHES climate database based on historical documents of China. This database of thousands of records, principally from the Ming and Qing periods, electronically publishes and encodes many sources previously available only in compilations that were difficult to access or search. The article explains the type of records available and some of the difficulties of interpretation they present.


Depopulation in the Americas and Climate Forcing

Land use and population change in the early post-contact Americas

Land use and population change in the early post-contact Americas

A recent article published in Quaternary Science Reviews offers an updated view on the effect of indigenous depopulation in the Americas on the global climate. Reviewing 119 regional studies, it points  a decline in atmospheric carbon of 3.5 ppm due to the regrowth of secondary forests in areas previously used for agriculture that were abandoned after indigenous populations shrank. The authors point to this event as one of the earliest anthropogenic climate interventions. Read the full text here.

Freshwater Mussels as a Source of Climate Data

Growth curves for three species of mussel analyzed in the study.

Growth curves for three species of mussel analyzed in the study.

A new paper in Ecological Indicators outlines the opportunities in using freshwater mussels as a climate proxy. Although using data from shells is a well-established practice, the study’s authors draw attention to alternative methods for noninvasive measurement. These measurements are annually banded and have the best response during warmer months, offering scientists the opportunity to create high resolution proxy records. Read the full paper here

New Pollen Record for Central Italy

Results of the study

Results of the study

A forthcoming palynology study on Lago di Mezzano in central Italy provides greater clarity to the landscape history in the region. In presenting her 15,300 year record, the author traces a shift from oak to beach to alder cars to a heavily human-modified assemblage in the recent past. This pollen data suggests that the area was most heavily impacted by humans during the Bronze Age, imperial Roman era, and the middle ages, though differently in each separate case. Read the full article here.  

Volume 4, Issue 3 of the CHN Newsletter Published

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Nicholas Cunigan, our newsletter editor, has published the latest issue of our Climate History Newsletter. You'll find exciting project updates, the latest from Past Global Changes (PAGES) working groups, and of course: a long list of new scholarship.

Download the issue by clicking here.

Symposia on the history of meteorological knowledge transfer in colonial contexts

Zhenghong Chen talking about meteorology in China

Zhenghong Chen talking about meteorology in China

Two linked symposia on “(Dis)Continuity Between the East and the West: The History of Meteorological Knowledge Transfer in Colonial Contexts”, sponsored by the International Commission for the History of Meteorology, took place in London this month during the conference of the European Society for the History of Science (14-17 September 2018). Read more about it here.

Understanding Chinese Climate Sources

Confucian philosopher Dong Zhongshu Source: Public Domain

Confucian philosopher Dong Zhongshu
Source: Public Domain

A new article in the journal Environmental History offers insight into classical Chinese sources on climate history. Although Chinese annals contain a wealth of weather data, putting this data to use meaningfully requires a careful understanding of the context in which the often-qualitative data were produced. As Pei and Forêt argue, Confucian “heaven-human induction theory,” in which the heavens communicated their displeasure with society or a ruler by sending weather omens, provides the fullest account of their intellectual underpinning. Read more about it here.