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HH Lamb’s “Climate: Present, Past & Future” In Review – Part II

May 14, 2014



By Paul Homewood


In Part I of the review of HH Lamb’s highly influential work, “Climate: Present, Past & Future”, we looked at climate history from the early Holocene up to 1900 AD.

This second part will review what Lamb had to say about 20thC climate, up to 1977, when the book was published, and what he believed the future had in store.

Again, I would remind readers that everything that follows is based on Lamb’s writings in this volume; any comments of mine will be within [ brackets ]. I would also point out that sections in italics are direct quotations from the book.


20th Century temperatures

According to Lamb

Air temperatures prevailing over most of the globe reached their maximum about the early 1940’s, and their subsequent fall to the levels maintained from 1965-75, or after, seems likely to be their longest continued downward trend since 1700.

He goes into more detail, using the Central England Temperature record.

(Figure 18.1) shows the history of temperatures prevailing in Central England from the mid 17thC to 1973. From about 1700 to around 1945, it is a one way story, a trend towards greater warmth, that was interrupted only by various shorter term fluctuations.

In consequence, the temperatures prevailing between about 1920 and 1960 represented a recovery to something near the level, which seems to have prevailed for a longer time in the early Middle Ages.

Lamb believed the CET was indicative of global temperatures.

From the parallelism with the curves representing widely separated regions of the earth, and the near agreement between the annual curve and the sequence of 5 year mean temperatures averaged over the whole world from 1870-1969, it seems that the changes in England of temperature have probably been a fair approximation to the average of the whole earth.



Effects of a cooler climate

Concerning the post 1940 cooling, Lamb comments.

Kukla & Kukla (1974) report that the area of snow and ice, integrated over the year across the Northern Hemisphere, was 12% more in 1973 than in 1967, when the first satellite surveys were made.

He then goes into a lot of detail about the effects of the changing climate of the 1960’s and 1970’s, summarising the changing precipitation patterns which resulted from a cooler climate.

  • Greater concentration of the equatorial rains near the equator.
  • Reduced rainfall and failures of the monsoons over the zones near 10-20o N and 12-20o S  (and farther South).
  • Much smaller changes over middle latitudes, where the most significant feature has been the very awkward type of variability from year to year, associated with the behaviour of blocking systems and meridional circulation patterns.
  • Substantially increased downput (mainly snow) in the highest Northern Latitudes.

Lamb offers many examples of such changes.

Examples of the consequences of these features include a number of serious items besides the extremes of cold and warmth, drought and flood associated with the occurrences of blocking in middle latitudes.

The greater yield of equatorial rains since 1961 over the equator led to abrupt rises of the levels of the great lakes there, drowning harbours and much land.

But , far more serious were the droughts in the zones to the North and South. In the Sahel between 200,000 and 400,000 died in the drought of 1972-73.

In those parts of N and NW India, near the limit reached by the summer monsoon, Bryson (1973) has noted a corresponding effect, scarcely less threatening to the inhabitants than the 6 year drought from 1968-73 in the West African Sahel.

In the first quarter of the century, there was a severe drought in N and NW India every 3rd or 4th year. Then, as the Earth warmed up and the circumpolar vortex contracted, the monsoon rains penetrated regularly into Northern India, and drought frequency declined to 2 in 36 years, from 1925-60. But since 1960, with the cooling of the Earth and the southern movement of the subtropical high pressure areas, drought frequency has been increasing again and the probability may be now more than once a decade.

Bryson adds that if a drought frequency like that which prevailed at the start of the century were to occur now, with India’s population having increased by a factor of 4, the human and political consequences would be enormous.

[While the droughts referred to are well known, it is interesting to learn about the increase in blocking patterns, which Hansen and co would like to blame nowadays on warming].


Possible causes of climatic change

Intriguingly Lamb refers to a study by Schneider & Mass in 1975 and comments

As regards causation of the climatic change from 1600 – 1970, Schneider & Mass, while admitting evidence for effects of great dust producing volcanic eruptions and man’s output of CO2, were able to simulate most of the supposed course of global mean surface air temperature over the past 370 years, by use of a formula expressing variations of the solar energy available in terms of sunset numbers, using Kondratiev & Nikolsky’s relationship which gives maximum solar energy at sunspot number 80.


What the future held

How did Lamb and his fellow climate scientists see climate developing in the years after the book was published?

Because of the pressing need for climatic foresight, a number of scientifically based forecasts of the natural climate have been attempted already. Those known to the WMO Working Group Climatic Fluctuations, which reported in 1972, and a few independently derived ones collected since are listed in Appendix VI.

…….Nevertheless, despite the wide variety of physical and statistical approaches involved, there is a remarkable degree of agreement between the forecasts for the next 30 years collected in Appendix VI.

Appendix VI goes on to describe each of these forecasts, which Lamb then summarises as follows.

These forecasts have all been attempts at prognosis of the natural climate. They should all be subject to the provisos that the tendency of the climate is not affected by :-

1) Any great outburst of volcanic activity.

2) Any new impact of human activity.

[ This is important to understand. Existing impacts from human activity were already built into the assumptions; only if such impacts increased or changed, would the forecasts be affected.]

Lamb then goes on.

There is a considerable measure of agreement between the 24 forecasts listed. Expectation of a trend towards colder climates with weakened general atmospheric circulation from 1950 or 1960 onwards seems to have been well verified by the actual weather to date.

Most forecasts expect this regime to continue into the 21st C , possibly into the second half of that century, in some cases with a further sharp cooling about 1980, and somewhat easier conditions for a time in the first half of that century.

The Japanese global survey and forecast usefully stresses the increased variability and incidence of extremes of temperature and rainfall in recent years.



Japanese Study

The reference to the Japanese study, (Japanese Meteorological Agency – 1973), intrigued me. It was set up “In response to public demand for information about the apparent increase in incidence of exceptional weather in recent years”. It was based on a study of 150 stations across the world and found, that in terms of departure from the previous 30 year average:-

1) In the case of monthly mean temperatures, anomalies [i.e. warmer and/or colder] had increased with each successive decade since 1940, with a predominance of departure towards the low temperature side. From 1961 on, the frequency of significantly cold months was more than double that of significantly warm months.

2) There was no noteworthy variation in the occurrence of precipitation anomalies until 1960, but in the later years their frequency was very significantly increased with cases of deficient rainfall about 1.6 times as frequent as cases of excessive precipitation.

  1. May 15, 2014 2:10 am

    Hubert Lamb’s story: ”He goes into more detail, using the ”Central England” Temperature record.
    (Figure 18.1) shows the history of temperatures prevailing in ”Central England” from the mid 17thC to 1973. From about 1700 to around 1945, temperatures averaged over the whole world from 1870-1969, it seems that the changes in England of temperature have probably been a fair approximation to the average of the whole earth”

    So, ”GLOBAL” temperature for Hubert is; same as ”central England’s temperature” for the past…”

    1]We know that: this year, when was big floods in England – at the same time / same days was drought in US, and in the same time was wildfires and record braking heat.

    b] how come the ”GLOBAL” temp was same as in England, in the past, but not now?! Can you see the discrepancy / the con?!

    2] now they are collecting data on only 6000 places for records and on 99,99999999999999% of the planet nobody is collecting data – in the 70’s was collected on LESS than 6000 places for him; but he talks with confidence that he knows the correct temp for the WHOLE planet…

    b] Hansen talks / lies for one global warming in 100years – Hubert talks / lies for many global warmings / coolings for the past – without any sufficient data = Hubert Lamb was a serial liar – his lies are the foundation for Mann’s &Hansen’s phony global warming in 100years.

    b] when one talks about localized temperature, for now or for the past, but is referring it as ”global” is only proof that the person is DISHONEST!!!
    Question imposes itself: ”if central England temp” is sufficient for the WHOLE planet; why the hell people are spending big millions of dollars and billions of man-hours, to collect temp on many different places?!

    the truth will win on the end!!!

    • May 15, 2014 9:07 pm

      Stefan having read a fair bit of Lamb’s work I take a different view. His observations, whixh you seem to equate solely with CET include many global observations of the past. I have been reading his works from the 60s and they are quite sane. CET also tends to be a good, but not wholly accurate, guage for global (or at least Northern Hemispheric) temps.

      My reading is of deep skepticism of cagw who have rewritten his role. He did describe the cyclical cooling of ~1940s-70s as a possible ongoing trend but caveated that it could be an amelioration – he warned also of decisions based on building etc taken during these ameliorations. Indeed he was skeptical of the warm years of the 80s & 90s for the same reason. His work on circulation changes is still important.

      I have a small sample here

      All I would say is read his work not someone else’s version. I see no basis in his work for the claims of Mann, Hansen et al…anything but (note his comments on the 1730s, 1770s and the 1930s which may have bearing in how he saw the warm year of 1995 trumpeted by the warmists).


  2. May 15, 2014 3:03 pm

    “in terms of sunset numbers”

    I like it.. as history fades into the dark nights of ignorance.

  3. May 16, 2014 2:44 am

    craigm350 PERMALINK May 15, said: ”Stefan having read a fair bit of Lamb’s work I take a different view”

    Hi Greg

    1] ”climatologist” didn’t start lying in the 80’s, lying has being their bread and butter from day one.
    2] if somebody as Lamb can judge the ”WORLD’s” temp, by how many bushels per acre was produced in England = shows his credibility is zero

    3] good old Hubert was disagreeing with Warmist in 80’s, for simple reason that: ”he was before them ”predicting ice age for year 2000. Hansen & Mann went in the opposite direction, with bigger noise, only because year 2000 was approaching and cooling was not happening.

    If Lamb wasn’t impatient and ”predicted” cooling by year 2100; now we still would be bombarded with proofs that ”the GLOBE” is getting colder.

    THE TRUTH: there is always some places colder than previous year – the planet is a big place, BUT other places ”simultaneously” are warmer than normal – otherwise the winds would have stopped a] if you follow the places where is colder than last year= you can make a case for ”global cooling” as Lamb did -/ if you follow the places where is warmer than previous year = you can make a case for ”global warming” as Hansen did. So: Hansen & Lamb are same caliber conmen.

    The truth is: nobody monitors the temp on the 99,999999999% of the planet = nobody knows what is the ”overall” global temperature. b] planet is not as a human body – when goes one degree up under the armpit = the WHOLE body is warmer by that much – in the environment the temp changes every 15 minutes, on every square kilometer. b] the ”normal” laws of physics say: ”the overall global temp cannot be warmer, or colder for more than a day; BECAUSE: oxygen &nitrogen expand / shrink INSTANTLY in change of temp, and they are regulating the overall temp, not Hansen’s & Lamb’s lies: Lamb was telling more lies than Hansen, only at that time was no scrutiny b] at that time needed to tell bigger lies to get the attention and funds than it is now

  4. May 17, 2014 4:17 pm

    Having also read a good deal of his work I agree with Craigm350 rather than stefanthedeniers rather harsh impression.

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