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Making Sense of 20th Century Temperature Changes
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Bob Henson, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
This very clear explanation of a graph of global temperatures from 1880-2008 comes from the author of The Rough Guide to Climate Change, who is also a science writer at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).
(6 minutes, July 2009)


The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future
Richard Alley. Princeton University Press, 2000, 229 pp.
This book by climate scientist Richard Alley offers an engaging account of the adventure of drilling ice cores on Greenland (and then analyzing them in sophisticated labs) as a framework for talking about the history of our planet's climate, especially the last 100,000 years, and its possible future. With clear explanations of how and what scientists learn from ancient ice, Alley lays out the evidence that human civilization has grown during an unusually stable climate, one sharply different from what came before and may come again.


Several recent "big-picture" books explore possible connections between climate changes and human history, working to avoid past abuses of this topic and using the more detailed information now available. Anthropologist Brian Fagan, for instance, writes, "Climatic stress, when it does not bring complete collapse, often acts as a spur to social reorganization and technological innovation." For some interesting examples, see:
  • Fagan's sweeping, thought-provoking The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations (Bloomsbury Press, 2009), The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (Basic Books, 2004), and The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 (Basic Books, 2000)
  • Historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's groundbreaking, richly detailed Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate since the Year 1000 (Doubleday, 1971)
  • Biogeographer Jared Diamond's cautionary Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking, 2004)
  • and these books by climate scientists: William J. Burroughs's Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos(Cambridge University Press, 2005); Jean Grove's Little Ice Ages: Ancient and Modern, 2nd edn. (Routlege, 1995); and William R. Ruddiman's Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate (Princeton University Press, 2005).

articles & essays
Whalers Tale Sheds New Light on Arctic Ice
Tim Radford, Climate News Network, July 2014
Interesting story about researchers using whalers' logs to look at Arctic ice extents and conditions between 1750 and 1850.

Wars, Murders to Rise Due to Global Warming?
Ker Than, National Geographic, August 2013
Interesting (and worrying) summary of a study published in the journal Science that brings together findings from a wide range of fields (economics, archaeology, political science, psychology, climatology) to reveal a wide-spread link between higher temperatures and human aggression, both now and in the past. You may have to sign up to read the article, but doing so is free and straightforward.

Holocene Temperatures
RealClimate, March 2013
A very interesting Q&A by the authors of a study published in Science that reconstructed the temperature record of the last eleven thousand years. Technical but clear, with good links for those who wish to read more.

Tiny Frigid Bubbles Get to the Core of Climate Change
Michael Lemonick, Climate Central, May 2012
A very reader-friendly introduction to what and how scientists learn from the bubbles they find in ancient ice.

Ancient Extinction Has Ominous Lessons for Today: Study
Michael Lemonick, Climate Central
A very short report of a study published in Science that identifies the timing of the mass extinction at the end of the Triassic with that of an episode of intensive volcanic activity‒and a resulting spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide that parallels what is expected to occur this century, at the world's current emission rates.

Ocean Acidification Rate May Be Unprecedented
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
How carbon dioxide increases ocean acidity, why it matters to living things, and how current rates of change compare to events many millions of years in the past: the summary of recent research offered by this short, lucid piece is an excellent starting place for this important topic.

Pan Inuit Trails Project
Created from 18th and 19th century maps and records and traditional Inuit knowledge, this interactive database recording human presence in the Northwest Passage is primarily historical but also to a significant degree current. One aim of the project is to "help people visualize how many people are being affected by climate change" in this part of the world. For a good story about the project, by Henry Gass of ClimateWire (june 2014), click here.

The Climate History Network
This site (begun in August 2010) contains references and resources for historians interested in climate-and for others interested in the intersections between human history and climate: tools for teaching and research and news and updates about research on climate and history. Its aims are "to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration between climatologists and historians, to help reconstruct past and present climate change, and to place current climate events in long-term perspective."

Gallery of Temperature Change Data
For ten graphs of global temperature changes that cover different time scales‒tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions, and hundreds of millions of years‒see the Global Warming Art site's Temperature Gallery. Each graph can be clicked on for more detailed information about sources, interpretation, and copyright status; most can be used if proper credit is given.

A comprehensive and welcoming gateway to clear explanations, data ("the world's largest archive of climate and paleoclimate data"), and graphics about Earth's past climates, provided by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


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