Manley: Climate and the British Scene

DSC_1880-manley-climate-and-the-british-scene_crop From the department for historical research. I happened to be in the Oxfam bookshop trying to empty our house, when I looked down and saw this in the pile of new arrivals. It hadn't been priced but they took a fiver for it, which seems fair enough. Its a very British-meteorologist book, you can practically see him puffing on his pipe as he writes it. I am, of course, going to skip over all the nice climate and weather stuff, and look at the climate change, much to his dismay.

Manley factoid: he is buried in Coton churchyard.

You can read a few pages I've uploaded if you like, but you're better off going to the convenient online copy. My copy is the fourth edition, by Collins / Fontana. It is marked as first published 1952, copyright 1952, but first published in Fontana 1962. The preface says that certain tables have been brought up to date (1961). The online one thinks it is from 1971. Manley died in 1980.

What's the point?

To look at what he said, then, about past variations in climate. Most of the book isn't: its about the actual climate. But on my page 279, in a table of various periods coming up towards date, we have:

About 500 B.C.

Climate again much damper with considerably cooler and more cloudy summers, less evaporation, more wind and rainfall. Rapid growth of peat over previously forested uplands especially where less well drained. Tree-line lowered by perhaps 1,000 feet. Birch increases in lowlands and in damp sites oak, alder and willow especially prominent. Summers perhaps 4o cooler than previous phase, winters still rather mild due to much wind and cloud ('early Iron Age').


Possibly minor amelioration and recession in Roman times; improvement about 7th and nth century, wetter around 1100, again more disturbed after 1300. Minor fluctuations with tendency for colder winters after 1550; tendencies probably more or less similar to those shown by Fig. 64. Minor drier and wetter groups of years in S.E., but uncertainty how far these are applicable in N. and W. Prevalence of colder winters in later 17th century, and recurrence 1740 onward; groups of generally warm summers, e.g. 1772-83; and cool, 1692-1700, 1809-18. Tendency in direction of milder winters since 1850 or earlier but not uninterrupted. Appreciable increase of average temperature in spring, summer and autumn since 1930. Despite 1959, the peak may have been passed.

[I've correct the OCR a couple of times, but otherwise this is copied from the online text. You can't tell from this fragment, but from surrounding text I believe that temperatures are in Fahrenheit (good gracious) and so that 4o presumably is.]

DSC_1879-manley-fig-64-crop You'll want to see fig 64, I imagine, so here it is.

Notice that he doesn't share our obession with temperature being of overriding interest besides which everything else pales. And that although he describes cold temperatures around what we'd now call "Little Ice Age" kind of times, he doesn't use the phrase. Of "Medaeival Warm Period" for that matter. And his temperature graph sticks a big upwards spike in "LIA" times.

He doesn't explain these variations, though there is speculation about solar variation, perhaps acting via changes in circulation. The greenhouse effect isn't mentioned; CO2 is, briefly: The atmosphere which envelops us is in the main a mixture of gases ; some of these are the permanent constituents, about one-fifth oxygen and nearly four-fifths nitrogen with small quantities of other gases. Water-vapour is the principal variable constituent; carbon dioxide is a minor variable constituent of potential importance. But the "potential importance" teaser isn't followed up, as far as I can see.

He's also very unclear about what might have caused the ice ages. Milankovitch doesn't get a look in: Other suggestions have been made which postulate considerable variations in the intensity of solar radiation. It has been demonstrated by Sir George Simpson that a small increase in the power of the sun would ultimately give rise to increased cloud and precipitation in highland regions towards the poles; assuming that the land was already sufficiently elevated, the resultant increased cloudiness and snowfall would gradually give rise to an ice cap. He points out the importance of the fact that a widespread cloud sheet, once formed, reflects a great deal of the radiation falling upon it. The elegance with which his theory can be extended to explain the occurrence of cooler and warmer interglacials is attractive; it was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society for 1934, with some revision in 1957. But unfortunately, sufficient geological evidence is not forthcoming with regard to the relative coolness or warmness of the several interglacials which Simpson's theory would require; interglacial deposits are rare, as they are generally removed by the succeeding glaciation. For this reason the elucidation of the full story of the British glaciations is tardy. Moreover full agreement has not been reached with regard to the number and extent of the several glaciations in other parts of the world.

None of which matters, really: its just an illustration of what people thought, then. And is perhaps some counter to the "Age of Gold" nonsense that some people spout.

More like this

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Any hint of who owned the book? Might be interesting

[Good point. No name. It was with a stack of others, which I could have looked at. The others weren't weather / climate (I would have noticed). I think they were other library-of-science type books -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 24 Nov 2012 #permalink

I wonder what the others were saying?

This method is a bit inefficient.

By deconvoluter (not verified) on 24 Nov 2012 #permalink

I once knew a physicist Manley in Los Alamos in the 1950s. Wonder if they were related.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 24 Nov 2012 #permalink

My copy cost 45 pence, but then I think I bought it either ten or 13 years ago, when charity shops sold books at a low price so I could hoover up 20 of them for a tenner.

It also has a PLayer's catalogue return slip inside, perhaps indicating the rought period when the owner was reading it.

There is a recent update to Manley's 'Climate and the British Scene' volume 22 from the same New Naturalist series. This new work is 'Climate and Weather' by John Kington (ex Met Office and UEA) published 2010, volume 115 of the series. He tries to map out UK weather from 1st century BC to 20th century AD; it is an extremely detailed chronology of the British climate and provides reconstructed pressure maps. The earliest pressure map given is for summer 1310 AD with eyewitness weather reports.

Yes, a fiver is a jolly decent donation to Oxfam and hence a Good Thing.

However the book itself seems remarkably pricy at 9/6, only a tanner short of ten bob at a time when standard paperbacks were two bob. Or 10p in post-decimalisation speak.
As I recall, fish suppers were tuppence under two bob at the time and are now a fiver. So on that scale, the book was approximately £25 in current fish supper money, guess it's not too far out of line for a big glossy book or a textbook. Fontana suggests paperback rather than hardback.

More to the point, I seem to recall stuff about climate change affecting the shift from Neolithic comforts to the dismal Dark Ages and Medieval squalor, as well as vegetation changing to lots of dismal peat. Maybe got that from 1066 and all that.

The nearest that comes to hand is Sun, Moon and Standing Stones by John Edwin Wood, OUP paperback 1980, which suggests the Beaker people may have reverted to more nomadic agriculture "because the climate had improved. During the period from 2500 BC to 1500 BC there was a warm spell and this would have allowed them a more outdoor existence than the Neolithic people had."
Who knew?

For a novel exploration of British climatic and vegetative changes in the last 10,000 years or so, see Martin Palmer's _Sacred Land_, available at Amazon for the price of a good fish supper.

A theologist who used to advise the WWF back in the days when it was shooting poachers beside the Zambezi (and the great grey greasy Limpopo, for all I know), Palmer misdates, mislocates and misattributes as only a bald man wearing a cowboy hat can. As a bonus, he thinks that the Enlightenment was a Bad Thing and that Homo sapiens is a 'grazing species'. We're also a 'narrative species', whatever that means. And we've only got 200-300 years left before we all go belly up.

You can trust him on that. He speaks Chinese.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 28 Nov 2012 #permalink

Badly Eli trusts

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 28 Nov 2012 #permalink