Category Archives: Climate History Network

Climate History Network

Climate History Podcast

The Climate History Network has launched a new Climate History Podcast. The first episode is an interview of Geoffrey Parker about the human consequences, and enduring significance, of seventeenth-century cooling.

Here’s a link to the podcast:
To subscribe on iTunes, click here:

Every few months, new interviews will be added with the some of the most interesting people in climate change research, journalism, and policymaking, always with an eye to how we can use the past to enrich our understanding of the present and future.

Climate History Network Opportunities

Call For Papers – Ruling Climate: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Governmentality, 1500-1800

‘Ruling Climate’ aims to explore the relationship between cultural perceptions of the environment and practical attempts at environmental regulation and change between 1500 and 1800. The conference will be held at the University of Warwick on 16 May 2015. Submit proposals by 10 December 2014.

In the early modern period, the environment became a privileged locus of scientific debate and governmental action. Discussions spread across Europe and its colonies as to how to improve the land, and possibly even the climate of a given place; practical efforts were made to enhance the healthiness, productivity, and overall pleasantness of the environment (both natural and built) in the belief that environmental ‘improvement’, as it was then called, would immediately bring about human improvement—a larger, healthier, happier population that would make the country more powerful. Such debates and practices were driven by a persistent belief in the influence that landscape, weather and climate would exert on human beings, both at a physical and a spiritual level. ‘Climate theories’—first advanced by ancient authors such as Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Ptolemy—remained a popular explanatory paradigm throughout the early modern period, actively dictating trends in environmental management, social governance, and the administration of both private and public health, as well as shaping colonial attitudes to foreign climates and peoples. Yet the period between 1500 and 1800 was also one of substantial intellectual, scientific, and technological change in which new conceptions of nature, climate, and weather were developed. The human footprint on Earth grew heavier, whilst the first moves towards conservation and sustainable resource management were made. Finally, it was in this period that changing climatic patterns were observed for the first time, partly because of a cooling trend that reached its peak around 1650 (the so-called Little Ice Age).
‘Ruling Climate’ aims to investigate this complex of problems in an interdisciplinary fashion, focusing particularly on three central research questions:

  1. continuities and discrepancies between ancient and early modern climate theories: how were classical theories of climatic influence received and adjusted to new contexts in the early modern period? How did the understanding of climate itself change over time?
  2. climate theories and ‘eco-governmentality’: how did climatological ideas inspire and sustain governmental efforts of various kinds, at both a domestic and a colonial level? e.g. the displacement of populations, environmental planning in connection to public health issues, engineering works, choice of specific sites for new colonies, etc.
  3. governed with climate / governing climate: what is the relationship between theories of climatic influence and the development of strategies to cope with / modify climate and the environment? e.g. through agricultural improvement, increased human settlement, draining of bogs and marshes, deforestation, etc.

We welcome abstracts for 20-minute papers from PhD students and scholars at any stage in their career. Papers from all disciplinary backgrounds are welcome, including environmental history, colonial history, intellectual history, historical geography, history of philosophy, history of medicine, history of science, history of political thought, history of technology. Please send a 200-word abstract (including your name, institutional affiliation and a provisional title) and a one-page CV to Successful speakers will be notified in January 2015.

Climate History Network Conference

Call for Papers: Climate in Culture Conference

As climate change becomes arguably the most pressing issue of our time, with evolving implications for societies in every cultural context, we seek to enhance our understanding of the ways in which culture and climate intersect with and animate one another.  Cultural responses to and representations of climate are particularly compelling at a time when catastrophic weather events are becoming more commonly manifest and are inspiring a wide array of cultural and interpretive responses.  Paying particular attention to the cultural implications of climate and to cultural, political, and societal responses to climate change, this conference explores how humanities-based scholarship can be brought to bear upon the evolving reality of climate change. Conference events include keynote talks given by internationally renowned climate and culture scholars, traditional academic papers and presentations, and a variety of interdisciplinary and multimedia performances.  We thus invite submissions from scholars from across the humanities, broadly defined, who are dealing with any aspect of climate and climate change in a cultural context. The conference is hosted by the University of Prince Edward Island, home of the Atlantic Climate Lab and the Institute of Island Studies. Prince Edward Island is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and charm, thus making it an especially apt location for a conference on climate change and its human implications.  Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words to by January 5, 2015. For more on the conference, visit its website or its Facebook page.

Climate History Network Conference

Workshop Report: Climate Change and Global Crisis in the Seventeenth Century

(cross post from the Climate History Network)

On 5-6 May 2014, the Institute for Advance Study in the Humanities at Essen held a two-day workshop on “Climate Change and Global Crisis in the Seventeenth Century.” read more »

Climate History Network Publications

Climate History Forum in Environmental History

(cross post from the Climate History Network)

The April 2014 issue of Environmental History features an extended forum on climate history.  The introductory essay focuses on two questions raised throughout the articles: (1)How does the study of climate history enrich the field of environmental history more broadly? (2) How can environmental historians contribute to present-day understandings of and responses to global climate change?  The first contribution, by Adrian Howkins considers the history of Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys as a lens on contemporary climate science and the meaning of the Anthropocene.  Georgina Endfield analyses the workings of vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation through past climate changes and extremes, with case studies from colonial Mexico.  Lawrence Culver discusses the historical perceptions and cultural construction of climate through 19th-century American debates over expansion into the arid West and the myth that “rain follows the plow.”  Sam White’s essay surveys the place of animals in climate history, emphasizing human use of animals as a key factor in past and present climate change vulnerability and resilience. Sherry Johnson considers the impact of smaller climate cycles and extreme events through a case study of Florida natives during the War of Jenkin’s Ear and the Stono Rebellion (1738-40).  James Fleming traces the history of a medical metaphor of climate and climate change both in scientific and popular discourse, noting its effects on policy proposal including as geoengineering.  Philip Garone details the practical and political significance of climate change for US public lands management and considers its consequences for our understandings of conservation, preservation, and wilderness.  Finally, Mark Carey makes a case for a critical climate history: an active involvement of historians in climate change discussions, and climate models and scenarios that are better informed by history.

Climate History Network Fellowships

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental History/History of Science, University of Oregon

(cross post from the Climate History Network)

Applications are sought for a two-year National Science Foundation (NSF) funded postdoctoral fellowship at the intersection of environmental history, the history of science, and political ecology at the University of Oregon.  The postdoctoral fellowship is part of Professor Mark Carey’s NSF CAREER grant (#1253779) on “Glaciers and Glaciology: How Nature, Field Research, and Societal Forces Shape the Earth Sciences” (see links below for more information).  Applicants should have a research agenda that intersects with this NSF-funded project by examining historical glacier-society interactions, the history of glaciology, the history of the earth sciences, climate-society dynamics, the role of dynamic environmental change in the evolution of scientific knowledge, or the history of field-based sciences.  Applicants may also have broader or more theoretical connections to the project, or they may have related regional specializations in the history of Greenland, the Arctic, Antarctica, or high mountains such as the Himalaya, Alps, or Andes.

read more »

Climate History Network

ASEH Climate History sessions

(cross post from the Climate History Network)


At the American Society for Environmental History in Toronto, there will be a number of paper and panels on climate including:

  • Climate history breakfast to discuss initiatives in this growing field of environmental history.  It will meet on the morning of Thursday, April 4, 7:15am in the Jasper Room.
  • “East Meets West: Middle Eastern Environments and Western Eyes” (Panel 4-E), chaired by Sam White of Oberlin College. Paper presentations will be “East, West, and American Conversationism” by David Schorr of Tel Aviv University; “The Science of Sand: The East in Nineteenth Century European Climatology” by Philipp Lehmann of Harvard University; and “Getting the Goat: Disturbing Creatures and Attempts to Change the East” by Tamar Novick of Univeristy of Pennsylvania. read more »
Climate History Network Resources

Teaching resource: 100 Views of Climate Change

(cross post from Climate History Network)

100 Views of Climate Change is a website for climate-change education and outreach.  This site was recently reorganized and includes annotations and links to videos, podcasts, books, articles, essays, and websites that convey high-quality information in clear and appealing ways to non-specialist adults, including college-level students, their teachers, and the interested public. The range is multidisciplinary, ranging from climate science to ecology, agriculture to ethics, communication to policy, economics to energy.

Climate History Network

Study: Volcanic Eruptions Diminished Recent Warming

(cross-post from Climate History Network)

Average global temperatures fluctuate in response to many different influences, and while some of these “forcings” are now affected by humans, others are shaped entirely by natural causes. Articles on this website have considered whether sulfur released into the atmosphere by volcanic eruptions stimulated the prolonged cooling of the so-called Little Ice Age in the centuries before 1850. Deposited in the stratosphere, volcanic sulfur dioxide interacts with other chemicals to form sulfuric acid and water, which in turn reflects solar radiation. Other articles on the site have introduced research revealing that the reflective properties of man made aerosol pollution in the twentieth century likely sheltered swaths of North America and, later, parts of China from the influence of global warming. Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a new study by lead author Ryan Neely explores how these very different influences have recently interacted with the most important forcing agent of our time: the rapid rise of atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activity.

Climate History Network

New Study: Multiproxy Reconstruction Offers Independent Confirmation of Global Warming

(cross-post from Climate History Network)

The article D.M. Anderson et al., “Global Warming in an Independent Record of the Past 130 Years,” published in Geophysical Research Letters, uses an index of 173 temperature-sensitive proxies to reconstruct global temperatures going back to 1880, and a smaller index of 67 proxies to extend the record back to 1730.  The results strongly mirror those of the instrumental record, with clear indications of accelerating warming in the 20th century.  The study notes that “The upward trend appears to begin in the early 19th century but the year-to-year variability is large and the 1730-1929 trend is small.”

Of course, for climate historians the study also serves as a nice confirmation of the validity of proxies in historical climate reconstruction.  The broad Paleo Index used in the study actually shows much stronger correlation with the instrumental record than single, local proxies tend to do.