Wednesday, November 30, 2011


date: Tue, 9 Oct 2007 13:33:22 +0100
from: "Jo Carlowe" <>
subject: Fw: BBC Focus Magazine
to: "Phil Jones" <>

Sorry, just to clarify:

I'm assuming that 1740 could be billed as the worst year to be living in the UK? But which
year/or decade would be considered to be a good time?

Thanks once again.

Best wishes


Jo Carlowe

Freelance journalist

020 8882 8987


----- Original Message -----
From: [2]Jo Carlowe
To: [3]Phil Jones
Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2007 1:18 PM
Subject: Re: BBC Focus Magazine

Thanks Phil,

Can you let me know the best title to use for you? Do you mind also giving a view (just a
subjective one) as to when (in terms of climate and weather) was the best decade/s to be
around and when the worst (that can include the present or future).

Thanks very much.

Best regards


Jo Carlowe

Freelance journalist

020 8882 8987


----- Original Message -----

From: [5]Phil Jones

To: [6]Jo Carlowe

Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2007 1:06 PM

Subject: Re: BBC Focus Magazine

I was away all last week, so apologies for being slow. Here are a
few thoughts.
1. You and other may feel more insecure now, but this is coming from
the knowledge you now have. This knowledge was quite different from
earlier centuries, so this affects how earlier events were perceived then
as opposed to now. So, any comparisons with the past are not
that relevant to what is happening now or what will happen in the
2. There have been good/bad times for humans in the past (and I'm thinking
here purely of those related to the environment). The impacts of such
events, that I know of, though are only related to the effects across Europe.
Agricultural crises DID NOT trigger the Little Ice Age - even if such an
event took place. Europe WAS not gripped by a chill that lasted 300 years.
Your view here is completely wrong. There were more cold years,
but there were also some very warm periods.
3. The clearest impacts of climate in the historical past that I'm aware
of took place when the climate of western Europe warmed from the early 1700s
to about 1739. There were a number of good harvests in Britain and Ireland
and our population increased dramatically as more children survived.
You should now see why your premise about the Little Ice Age is completely
wrong. The 1730s temperatures in the UK are exceeded by two decades - the
1990s and the 2000s.
In the late 1730s the population of Ireland was about twice what it is now!
In 1740 the coldest year in the Central England Temperature record occurred.
This led of famine across western Europe, especially Ireland. As many
people left Ireland then as did from the potato famine a century later. Probably
as many died, but it is a forgotten famine because of the later on in 1845/6.
The latter was due to the potato blight (and a one crop agricultural system),
but the one in 1740 was purely to the weather.
I'm attaching an article about this - the book to look at is by Dickson - in the
There is something in the paper about the effects of the very cold year
in different regions of Europe. The important thing in all this is
the exceptional cold of the year occurred after exceptional warmth
of an entire decade, so the effects were likely much worse as the
population had got used to a better climate. The conclusion of the
paper is that the event was natural (with no known cause) so it
could occur again!
The follow on influence of this is that people are not affected much by climate
or climate change. What effects them is the Weather!
At 11:17 02/10/2007, you wrote:

To: Professor Phil Jones
From: Jo Carlowe (BBC Focus Magazine)

Dear Professor Jones,

I've been given your name by the press officers at the Met Office. I was asking them for
experts who may be able to contribute their thoughts to a feature that I've been
commissioned to write for Focus magazine and they thought you may be able to help.

The feature will attempt to answer/explore the following: Given climate change and the
war in Iraq many of us have come to feel increasingly insecure - but is this time worse
than any other?

Some would argue that that isn't the case. They say the 14th century was the worst time
in history: re: health - there was a black death pandemic, re: conflict: The Hundred
Years War convulsed northern Europe for almost all of the 14th century, re: prosperity -
it was a time of flux with the Peasants Revolt, plus the black death caused an
agricultural crisis, climate: there are theories that the agricultural crisis actually
triggered the Little Ice Age that ensued at the end of the 14th century (moving into
1500s) causing Europe to be gripped by a chill lasting some 300 years.
This article, divided into four categories: climate, health (morbidity and mortality),
conflict (wars) and prosperity (standard of living), will canvass the views of
historians, meteorologists, economists and health experts to answer the question posed
in the title. The idea will be to give a historic overview focusing on these areas,
discussing which key events stand out in history, what events (be it conflicts, natural
disasters, economic change, health pandemics or innovations, peace resolutions etc) were
particularly bleak/catastrophic and which a positive force for change?

It would be most helpful if you could give your thoughts on this. In essence it would be
good to hear which events in relation to climate and the environment have had the
greatest impact on us in either a positive or negative way. So for example, it would be
useful to get some sense of the impact of the little Ice Age on the population (in terms
of impact on agriculture, prosperity, knock on health implications etc). I've been told
that the eruption of Tambora in 1816 which triggered the 'year without a summer' may
also be worth a mention (killing 10,000 people directly but a further 66,000 due to
starvation and disease). I am sure there are many more events of this kind that stand
out. It would be good too, to also mention periods in which climate/weather/nature
conditions were favourable, and to give some idea of any future threats that are worth a
mention. Finally, it would be helpful to get a 'verdict' from you on when in history (or
modern times) would have been the most favourable time to live (given the
environmental/climatic conditions of the time), and perhaps when would have been the
worst time (although this can include the present or future).

I appreciate that this is a vast area - so the idea is really just to give a
snap-shot/overview, together with a few subjective ideas/opinions from experts who are
in a position to give their take on this.

Would you be happy to give your thoughts on this for quotation in the article talking
about the significant developments in history, giving some sense of the best and worse
centuries/decades to be living in? Of course all quotes used will be correctly cited to
their source and I'd be more than happy to include any relevant links or publications.

I do hope you can help. In the first instance it might be easiest to reply by email and
I can then follow this up with a phone call.

I look forward to hearing from you.
With best regards
Jo Carlowe

Jo Carlowe
Freelance journalist
020 8882 8987

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Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email

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