International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015

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136 Towards policy-driven research in historical climatology (1)
Convenor(s) George Adamson (Kings College London, UK)
Chair(s) George Adamson (Kings College London, UK)
Timetable Friday 10 July 2015, Timeslot 2 (11:30 - 13:15)
Room Royal School of Mines Lecture Theatre 1.47
Session abstract The interrelationship climate and society during the past 500-1000 years is a fast-growing area of research within historical climatology. Substantial work has been undertaken to uncover climatic agency in the Little Ice Age, on the role of climate in the collapse of major societies such as the Classic Maya, and on adaptation strategies within pre-industrial communities. Yet historical approaches have thus-far largely failed to engage with the policy agenda. This is partly due to an epistemological divide that exists between practitioners of historical climatology and the development research community that largely dictate adaptation paradigms. This session addresses studies that have attempted to cross this divide and develop historical climate-society research with an explicit contemporary relevance and/or policy focus. This includes: empirical data on historical major climate events for the preparation of disaster management plans; the use of historical data to challenge dominant narratives of climate change or facilitate alternative policy responses; new or novel approaches to the study of historical climate-society interactions; studies that seek to reveal a deeper understanding of adaptive practices through historical analysis and the study of cultural memory.

This session is supported by the International Commission on the History of Meteorology
Linked Sessions Towards policy-driven research in historical climatology (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details:
A New Method for Identifying Historical-Climate Interactions Pre-1000CE
Conor Kostick (University of Nottingham, UK)
Francis Ludlow (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)
Up until now, due to a perceived dearth of historical material, the connections between extreme climate events and human societies pre-1000 CE have been little studied and such studies as there are have been based on specific cases arising from particularly vivid qualitative historical data. Thanks to fellowships at Yale and Harvard (Ludlow) and the University of Nottingham (Kostick), over the past three years Francis Ludlow and Conor Kostick have pursued methods for discovering co-occurrences between extreme climate events (such as years of flood, drought or extreme cold) and societal stresses (such as famines, epidemics and increased warfare) for the period. These methods are applied to a carefully compiled database of over 1,500 historical references to climate events or years of social stress from Europe and the Middle East. Recently, the authors have been investigating the even richer historical sources from China. This paper will present for the first time several striking and highly significant co-occurrences across centuries between years of extreme climate events and years of social stress.
Did climate change influence the English agricultural development? (1645-1740)
José Luis Martínez-González (University of Barcelona, Spain)
The aim of this part of my thesis project is to integrate and connect current research on the economical and social impact of climate with historical case studies. In order to achieve this aim, I have chosen the most paradigmatic example and one of the keys of the origins of material prosperity: England. The last phase of the Little Ice Age (LIA) involved climate cooling during the second half of the 17th century followed by a recovery during the first half of the 18th century. What consequences did this climate worsening have for the English agriculture? What adaptive responses did it generate? Were they different in the great farms from those among the small farmers? What can we learn about certain exogenous impacts such as the climate ones on the economic development in the long term? What can we learn about those adaptive responses (or the absence of them) related to our future in a world which is experimenting a global climate change again? In a more detailed way, I analyze the ‘Nitrogen Paradox’ stated by Robert Allen (JEH, 2008) in the interpretation of the English Agrarian Revolution as an adaptive response to the agroclimatic impacts of the last phase of the LIA. Why did the English farmers invest in enriching the soil organic nutrients pool when, in the short term, they did not increase yield?
"Mighty seas sweep our coasts": the impacts of winter storms in the UK past and present
Sarah Davies (Aberystwyth University, UK)
James Bowen (University of Liverpool, UK)
Georgina Endfield (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Cerys Jones (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Neil Macdonald (University of Liverpool, UK)
Simon Naylor (University of Glasgow, UK)
Marie-Jeanne Royer (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Lucy Veale (The University of Nottingham, UK)
There is increasing focus on the possible links between extreme weather events and climate change. The exceptionally stormy and wet weather experienced in the UK during winter 2013-14 brought this issue into the public eye in dramatic fashion. A series of deep Atlantic low pressure systems between December 2013 and February 2014 caused widespread disruption and damage around the UK coastline, presenting major challenges for agencies responsible for the protection of coastal areas and communities. Immediate concerns about public safety, damage to infrastructure and coastal defences were coupled with debates about future management strategies and the viability of protecting coasts in the longer term. Here, we draw upon a range of archival material (diaries, correspondence, commercial and public records and newspaper accounts) to examine storm activity in the UK over the past three centuries. These descriptive accounts reveal information about frequency, intensity and spatial extent of storms and also their associated impacts on communities, providing long term context to the ‘record-breaking’ headlines. We use examples from case study areas in Wales, southwest England and northwest Scotland to explore how the social and cultural context affects the way in which these extreme weather events are perceived, experienced and remembered. These local histories of weather extremes help to identify where key sensitivities lie in the context of future events. A historical perspective on storm activity and associated responses can help to inform managers and policy makers planning for future scenarios.