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HH Lamb & The Early Holocene

July 20, 2014

By Paul Homewood


Continuing my review of Hubert Lamb’s “Climate, History and the Modern World”, originally published in 1982, let’s take a look at what he had to say about the early holocene, between the end of the ice age and around 1000 BC.



He points out how the Sahara was a much wetter place than today, and how this began to change around 3000 BC, coinciding with the time of the Piora Oscillation, when glaciers began advancing in the Alps and elsewhere.




In Chapter 7, he goes into more detail.


Studies of the upper limit of trees on mountains can give a good approximation of temperatures through time. Studies by Vera Markgraf indicate that the tree limit was at its highest around 5000 BC. Since then, it has lowered, indicating a summer time temperature drop of 2C to 3C. The rebound during the MWP is also unambiguous.





This warm period is known as the “Atlantic Climatic Period”, and Lamb offers other evidence.



Lamb also touches on the question of sea level, suggesting that sea level was likely at its highest around 2000 BC, when “ it may have stood a metre or two higher than today” (page 116).

He wonders whether a higher sea level may have facilitated the original building of the Suez Canal in 2000 BC. 




During these warmer times, not only the Sahara, but other regions of Africa, such as Chad and East Africa, were much wetter than now.




And not only Africa. Further afield, India and China enjoyed a much wetter climate.




Lamb was clear about the causes of this wetter climate. Quite simply, during a warmer climate, all of the weather systems move towards the poles, pushing the anticyclone zone and North Atlantic storm zones north. As a result, the equatorial and monsoon rains penetrate much further north.




After 3500 BC the Piors Oscillation introduced a cooler climate, though perhaps for no longer than 400 yrs.





As mentioned, India also experienced a much wetter climate.





Lamb also looks at research in China, which also finds much higher temperatures than now.




We can finish by looking at the evidence from Britain.




To conclude, Lamb finds clear evidence that the climate for most of this period was much warmer than today’s. He also shows how this led to a much wetter climate across many of today’s arid zones, while at the same time bringing a drier and more settled climate to temperate zones.

All of this makes two things clear:

1) There is nothing “unusual” about today’s climate.

2) The common claim that global warming will lead to more severe droughts in Africa and elsewhere is not supported by the historical evidence.

  1. July 20, 2014 3:14 pm

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction Blog.

  2. Paul permalink
    July 20, 2014 5:06 pm

    In a thousand years time climatologists will write books about the world’s climate around this time and reserve a small line mentioning the carbon scare of the early 2000’s.

  3. catweazle666 permalink
    July 20, 2014 7:31 pm

    Who to believe, Hubert Lamb or Hokey Schtick Mann…

    It’s a puzzle.

  4. tom0mason permalink
    July 20, 2014 8:34 pm

    A snippet of information that Lamb probably did not have is in the abstract to a book here –

    Middle Holocene remains and rock paintings show that the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus Laurenti) used to occur across the whole Sahara. It also occurred at the South Mediterranean shores, in swamps and rivers and it may even have been circum-mediterranean. Until the beginning of this century, many permanent waters in the Sahara still housed relict populations. Nowadays, only few specimens survive in pools in few river canyons of the Ennedi plateau (N. Chad), where they are threatened with extinction. Another relict population, in the Tagant hills of Mauretania, was found to be probably extinct in 1996.

    HH Lamb certainly knew much about climate and its various cyclic behavors. Todays ‘climate scientists’ appear to be out to lunch by comparison

  5. A C Osborn permalink
    July 20, 2014 10:13 pm

    Paul, sorry it is off topic, but can you have a look at this from Steve Goddard and see if you can reproduce it with any of the data you already have?

  6. Sceptical Me permalink
    July 21, 2014 8:17 am

    Books like Brian Fagan’s ‘The little ice age’ and H.H. Lamb’s ‘Climate history..’ are now paradigm busting works. Its a pity that Lambs work is now out of print and those copies offered for sale are so expensive. Presumably modern climatologists are not required to study climate history but focus their energy upon hypothesy and running climate models.
    Its certainly a beautiful experience to overlay the history of the Mediterranean peoples, the rise, fall and overlap of civilisations, with the collected evidence for climatic change over the recent five thousand years.
    A well written, publically accessable paperback consolidating Lamb’s Climate history with human history from Minoan times would generarate considerable hate mail for the enterprising author.

    • August 2, 2014 7:15 am

      The Long Hot Summer by Brian Fagan describing how variations in the climate changed civilisation was an inspiring read for me.

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