Unlocking the Doors to the Past: Recent Developments in Climate and Climate Impact Research

  • P. D. Jones
  • A. E. J. Ogilvie
  • T. D. Davies
  • K. R. Briffa


In 1979, the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich held an international conference with the title “Climate and History”. This landmark meeting was one of the first of its kind to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines to focus on the issues of past climates and variability as well as the impacts of climate on societies. The conference resulted in an edited volume containing twenty-one peer-reviewed papers based on presentations at the meeting. This was published two years later as: Climate and History: Studies in past climates and their impact on Man (Wigley et al., 1981). With their interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives, the approaches of both the meeting and the book were highly innovative. Previously, for the most part, historians had tended to ignore the possible implications of climatic and environmental change for human history, and climatologists, with a few notable exceptions, had little interest in this field. The first meeting and the resulting volume also emphasised a further important development in climate research. Early investigations into past climate, dating from around the eighteenth century onwards, and, indeed, to as late as the mid-1970s, tended to assume that, on human timescales, climate was a relatively unchanging and constant factor. Certainly “weather” was acknowledged as a factor in certain historical events. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 is a well-known example; but subtler, longer timescale changes were not considered important by most historians and many climatologists. From the nineteenth century onwards, studies of climate based on instrumental records had been performed, but, in most cases, these were mere book-keeping exercises, concerned more with spatial rather than temporal variations of climate, and undertaken by small interest groups such as in a meteorological service or a university geography department.


Climatic Research Unit Past Climate Medieval Warm Period Northern Hemisphere Temperature Historical Climatology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. D. Jones
    • 1
  • A. E. J. Ogilvie
    • 2
  • T. D. Davies
    • 3
  • K. R. Briffa
    • 1
  1. 1.Climatic Research UnitUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Institute of Arctic and Alpine ResearchUniversity of Colorado at BoulderUSA
  3. 3.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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