Climate Change, Winter, and History.

You may think that the current Folie à deux over winter and climate change / global warming is something new. But, as Shakespeare observed in Hamlet, there is nothing new under the sun (or even, we might now add, under Co2).

Here’s Thomas Jefferson on warmer winters and climate change:

A change in our climate however is taking place very sensibly. Both heats and colds are become much more moderate within the memory even of the middle-aged.  Snows are less frequent and less deep. They do not often lie, below the mountains, more than one, two, or three days, and very rarely a week.  They are remembered to have been formerly frequent, deep, and of long continuance.  The elderly inform me the earth used to be covered with snow about three months in every year.  The rivers, which then seldom failed to freeze over in the course of the winter, scarcely ever do so now.  This change has produced an unfortunate fluctuation between heat and cold, in the spring of the year, which is very fatal to fruits.  From the year 1741 to 1769, an interval of twenty-eight years, there was no instance of fruit killed by the frost in the neighbourhood of Monticello.

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/JEFFERSON/ch07.html

And the renowned historian, Edward Gibbon, surveys the theories on changing climates in Europe and colder winters in ancient times:

Some ingenious writers have suspected that Europe was much colder formerly than it is at present; and the most ancient descriptions of the climate of Germany tend exceedingly to confirm their theory . . . But I shall select two remarkable circumstances of a less equivocal nature. 1. The great rivers which covered the Roman provinces, the Rhine and the Danube, were frequently frozen over, and capable of supporting the most enormous weights. The barbarians, who often chose that severe season for their inroads, transported, without apprehension or danger, their numerous armies, their cavalry, and their heavy wagons, over a vast and solid bridge of ice. Modern ages have not presented an instance of a like phenomenon.

http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_gibbon_1_9_1.htm

And we can keep going back in history, and find the same observations. This from the Roman writer, Columella, and his De Re Rustica:

For I have found that many authorities now worthy of remembrance were convinced that with the long wasting of the ages, weather and climate undergo a change; and that among them the most learned professional astronomer, Hipparchus,1 has put it on record that the time will come when the poles will change position, a statement to which Saserna, no mean authority on husbandry, seems to have given credence. 5 For in that book on agriculture which he has left behind he concludes that the position of the heavens had changed from this evidence: that regions which formerly, because of the unremitting severity of winter, could not safeguard any shoot of the vine or the olive planted in them, now that the earlier coldness has abated and the weather is becoming more clement, produce olive harvests and the vintages of Bacchus in the greatest abundance

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Columella/de_Re_Rustica/1*.html

In fact, there are so many references to climate change in ancient literature that studies collating them all have been written up in the academic literature:  http://www.springerlink.com/content/tn7m0x6j272uu666/

What these theories all have in common is that if they assign a reason behind the change in climate, it is almost always man-made. Of course, today we know better. Don’t we?

 

4 responses to “Climate Change, Winter, and History.

  1. Great finds – I’m not sure about your statement that ancient writers were pointing to a human cause for climate change. Can you set this out in more detail?

    • Hi Bish,

      Thanks for the visit. With the ancient writers, they very often tend to ascribe changes in weather to moral decline in human nature and human society. It’s an ancient version of what we sometimes see today – “Your decadent and wasteful western lifestyle is destroying the earth” as opposed to, say, “coal fired power stations are destroying the earth, so we must build nuclear power stations as soon as possible” – it’s making a moral judgment on a supposedly physical problem.

      I highly recommend this blog post from someone who studies ancient cultures

  2. Pingback: It’s all about the weather » Anonymong

  3. Pingback: Warmists New Claim: Little Ice Age Caused By American Settlers | hauntingthelibrary

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