Climate change in London and the Thames Estuary

Climate change in London and the Thames Estuary

The above chart, from the Museum of London, shows the pattern of climate change in the past  500,000 years. It does not have a vertical scale but I think mean temperatures were about ten degrees centigrade cooler at the Last Glacial Maximum (the last dip before the 50,000 years of global warming before the present). I am not a chart expert or a climate change expert but, to me, it looks as though a period of global cooling should be expected, whatever the consequences of man-made (anthropogenic) climate change.

Climate change has produced dramatic changes in the landscape of the Thames Valley

13 thoughts on “Climate change in London and the Thames Estuary

  1. Christine

    Yes. We are in what is commonly referred to as an interglacial period. In the 1970s it was commonly expected that we would experience a big freeze rather than a big warming.
    [ ] This experience of global cooling between 1940 and early 1970 is now attributed to the presence of increased sulphates in the atmosphere.

    However legislative actions on clean air in the US date from 1970s with amendments to reduce sulphur emissions enacted in the 1990s. Europe also took action to reduce sulphur emissions. It would be valuable to review the science and legislative and other action around climate dating from this critical period.

  2. Jon Flatley

    There are some climate scientists who believe the huge amount of extra fossil fuels emissions being spewed into the atmosphere will “permanently delay” the onset of the next ice age. The trigger mechanisms that lead to an onset of a glaciation episode are subtle and can possibly be overwhelmed.

    Check out “Storms of My Grandchildren” by James Hansen for more.

  3. Christine

    Yes. The climate debate is still heating up! It is very useful to review as much of the near time evidence and predictions as we can as well as the long range trends. The short range data will tell us much about Anthropogenic warming while the long range data will tell us much about Natural warming.

    As Jon points out the interaction of the two types of warming depends largely on trigger mechanisms and how they are effected.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The ‘trigger’ I have heard most about is the North Atlantic Drift Current, which may cause a freeze up in North Europe. But if the global climate becomes cooler I am going to think that the cause Natural, not Anthropogenic.

  4. Christine

    Unfortuneately if my understanding of the phenomena is correct, global warming is characterised by extremities of temperature – as much by extreme cold weather in winter as by extreme warm weather in summer. Not all areas will be affected by changes in climate in the in the same way.

    Just when you thought is it safe to worry only about global warming due to increases in atmospheric carbon along came the sulphate…Robert J. Charlson’s paper on Sulphate Aerosol and Global Warming [ ].

    Here is a blog that discusses the interaction of Natural and Anthropogenic sources of sulphate emissions.[ ]

    Lastly, it is to be hoped that the UK project talked about in this blog is any early April Fool’s Day joke. [ ] If not, Tom, lets hope they read the first paper by Charlson more carefully before proceeding!

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The science is above, and below, my head. But my conclusions are (1) global warming has been in progress for 20,000 years – and continues (2) natural causes are overwhelmingly the primary cause, but humans have exacerbated and accelerated the process (3) we should take the opportunity which arises from the media feeding frenzy to constrain energy consumption and develop renewable sources of energy (4) everyone who possibly can should commute by bike, grow some of their own food and try to take their house off-grid (5) in cold countries, thermal clothing should be taught at school (6) in hot countries, punkah-wallah’s should be eligible for the minimum wage

  5. Christine

    Climate science is still in its infancy, interacts with many other associated scientific disciplines including the marine sciences, space sciences and geological sciences, and is incredibly complex…so it seems to be pretty much above and beyond everyone’s head. Your recommendations (3)-(5)fit well with the precautionary principle.
    [ ]

    An alternative or complement to the punkah-wallah is passive energy design for the built environment.

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    I have added the Museum of London’s caption to the photograph of the chart. Humans will have to accept their fate with as much dignity as possible!

  7. Christine

    Thankyou for the technical information on the Druk White Lotus School. It would be wonderful to also have the architect’s description of the design of the spaces?

    Do you know if the course of the Thames is still shifting?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      There are a number of videos about the Druk White Lotus School:

      It is also mentioned in Arup’s (very good) promotional video

      And YES the Thames is still shifting its course, for anthropogenic reasons in the short term and for geomorophological reasons in the longer term – which will make the impact of man trivial.

  8. Christine

    Very interesting. Although Arup’s video was more about the philosophy behind the school than the
    architectural design concept. Perhaps at this stage the idea of a sustainable school is more about learning ways of building which combined local craft traditions in construction and modern technical knowledge in the engineering approach?

    Well it is interesting to know the Thames has a very European origin as a tributary of the Rhine. Apparently the profile of the river course can tell much about the age of the river – the merandering Thames is over 30 million years old.

    Some wiki facts:

    “The English name of the Rhine derives from Old English Rīn, which descends from Proto-Germanic *Rīnaz. This is also the source of the name in the other Germanic languages such as Dutch Rijn (formerly also Rhijn), German Rhein, Romansh Rain (via German) and also French Rhin and Spanish Rin, which came into the language through Old Frankish. This in turn derives from Indo-European *Reynos, from the root *rey- “to flow, to run”, which is also the root of words like river and run. The Celtic/Gaulish name for the Rhine is Rēnos, which derives from the same Indo-European source as the Germanic name.”

    The initial source of the river is known to all people and pupils in Grisons and Switzerland as lying north of Lai da Tuma (Tomasee) on Vorderrhein…


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