Stephan Matthiesen

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Climate and human history (OLL Jan-Mar 2012)

The Open Studies course "Climate and Human History" at the Office for Lifelong Learning, the University of Edinburgh, looks at the impact of climate and climatic variations on certain periods of world history. It runs for 10 afternoons from 19 January 2012, each week on Thursdays at 2pm-4pm.

Course Information

With Global Warming constantly in the media the science of climate change has never been more relevant. But what are the facts behind the headlines? Major changes in climate have occurred throughout the ages, but how did different civilisations handle their effects? This fully illustrated course uses the latest results from archaeology and climate science to show how some societies were able to adapt while others crumbled in the face of climate change. The lessons for 21st century civilisation will be discussed.

Organisation

  • Tutor: Stephan Matthiesen
  • Lectures: Thursdays from 19 January 2012 (10 Classes) 2pm - 4pm
  • Basil Skinner Room, 15 Buccleuch Place (Note change of room!)

Course Contents

1. Climate and climate history — 19 Jan 2012

Introducing the basics of the climate system and methods to reconstruct climate history - from the general atmospheric circulation to interpreting the past through ice cores and tree rings.

Presentation: PDF full resolution (9.7MB) or PDF low resolution (3.6MB)

2. The Ice Age — 26 Jan 2012

Climate variations during the ice age, and humans migrating out of Africa several times.

Presentation: PDF full resolution (9.3MB) or PDF low resolution (1.9MB)

3. Farming — 2 Feb 2012

After the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 18,000 years ago), climate became more stable - and humans settled down and invented farming.

Presentation: PDF full resolution (6.1MB) or PDF low resolution (1.6MB)

4. Roman Empire — 9 Feb 2012

Changes between 500BC and 500 AD.

Presentation: PDF full resolution (3.9MB) or PDF low resolution (1.3MB)

5. Tang and Maya and their collapse in the 10th century — 16 Feb 2012

Both the Chinese Tang Dynasty and the Maya civilisation collapsed at a time when monsoon patterns changed. What are similarities, what are the differences between the two civilisations?

Presentation: PDF full resolution (6.4MB) or PDF low resolution (1.4MB)

6. The Mediaevil Optimum and the Little Ice Age — 23 Feb 2012

Slightly warmer conditions prevailed from the 8th to the 13th century - followed by a period of generally colder winter temperatures and cool, wet summers from the 14th to the 19th century. Can we reconstruct the climate, and how much did it actually change? Was Greenland green, and what happened to the Vikings?

Presentation: PDF full resolution (7.3MB) or PDF low resolution (1.8MB)

7. El Niño through the Ages — 1 Mar 2012

The Pacific climate oscillation and its possible impacts on South America and Asia throughout history.

Presentation: PDF full resolution (2.0MB) or PDF low resolution (960KB)

8. Miscellaneous topics — 8 Mar 2012

Medieval famines in Egypt. A meteorite impact as cause of the Youger Dryas and the disappearance of mammoths - or perhaps not? The original Kamikaze and how weather has changed history.

Presentation: PDF full resolution (1.5MB) or PDF low resolution (508kB)

9. Present day climate change — 22 Mar 2012 (Note: No class on 15/3)

Observed and modelled changes in the last century and the next few centuries? How will we react? Which regions of the world will suffer, which will profit? Plenty of opportunities for controversial discussions!

Presentation: PDF full resolution (9.7MB) or PDF low resolution (2.8MB)

Chapter 10: What have we learned? Summary and discussions — 29 Mar 2012

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Aktuelle Seite: Material Climate and human history (OLL Jan-Mar 2012)