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« The sheep in Wales | Main | Diary dates, intellectual incuriousity edition »

Chronique du climat

A reader pointed me to a very interesting French book that may be of interest to readers. In Chronique du Climat en Poitou-Charentes Vendee Jean-Luc Audé extracts accounts of climate-related disasters from historical records of this area on the west coast of France.

He starts right back in 567, with the flooding of the Ile de Bouin and takes us quickly on to the droughts - Gaul-wide - in 874 which led to "sterility of the soil, a dearth of bread and of all the fruits of the earth". Then we learn that just a couple of years later "the rivers came in flood and annihilated castles, villages and people everywhere". The litany of climate disasters, which continues right up to the end of the twentieth century, is rather amazing and puts claims of global weirding in their proper context.

It's in French unfortunately for the majority of readers here (the translations above are mine, errors and all), but if you have a smattering of the language it's well worth dipping into. Someone really ought to translate it.

You can get it here.

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Reader Comments (43)

Only in paper form on Amazon 8.90€ . One comment only and it reads:

Livre très intéressant. Clair et facile à lire. Je le recommande à tous les picto-charentais..... J'ignorais que ce genre de livre existait et c'est en me "promenant" sur que je l'ai découvert... Merci !

Very interesting. Clear and easy to read. I recommend it to all (picto-charentais = slang) picture-writers of the Charente..... I was no aware that this type (genre) of book existed and it is for me promenant on Amazon that I have discovered it. Merci.

Feb 4, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

There is a piece of research that does the UK from a couple of years AD includes the great Humber flood that drowned 12,000 people and the same number of beasts, cattle. I will sort it out for those interested.

Feb 4, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Are their any wine experts who can review the great vintage years of French wine, and relate them to the weather in that particular growing season? ie hot/cold wet/dry?

I am sure that those attending the climate conference in Paris, will be fully prepared to test any theories about weather events and exceptionally expensive wines, if someone else is paying the bill.

Feb 4, 2015 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

I think that this book on the little ice age has been referenced here before:

It is a very well researched and informative book with the exception of the last chapter which consists mostly of CAGW alarmist drivel. It slightly baffles me how the author managed to remain an alarmist after finding out so much about the changing climate, how much better industrialised societies cope with disasters, and how much more benign the warmer periods have been historically. Still, definitely recommended reading.

Feb 4, 2015 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

This one is in English :)

"Dutch records show that the year 1540 was one with an even hotter summer than the heat wave year of 2003. “This Europe-wide heat wave lasted for seven months, harvests were destroyed and thousands of cattle died, leading to wide spread famine and death.

"A new study of tree rings provides the most detailed record yet of at least four epic droughts that have shaken Asia over the last thousand years, from one that may have helped bring down China's Ming Dynasty in 1644, to another that caused tens of millions of people to starve to death in the late 1870s."

Sea inundation in Holland, 1421, the sea submerged 72 Dutch counties, killing 100,000 people.

Sea inundation in Holland, 1530, sea dikes burst in Holland, submerging much of the country and killing 400,000 people.

The Great Storm of 1703 was the most severe storm or natural disaster ever recorded in the southern part of Great Britain. The Royal Navy lost 13 ships and 1500 seamen. Up to 15000 people died overall.

China - 15 years of storms 1851 to 1866, the low area between Beijing, Shanghai and Hankow flooded repeatedly during a disastrous 15 years of storms. It is estimated that 40 to 50 million Chinese perished in these floods.

Yellow River Flood, 1887, spring rains in China caused the Yellow River to overflow, covering 50,000 square miles and killing an estimated 1.5 million people.

The 1910 Great Flood of Paris - On January 28, the water reached its maximum height at 8.62 metres (28.28 feet), some 20 feet above its normal level. Estimates of the flood damage reached some 400 million francs, approximately 1.5 billion modern US dollars.

Central China floods of 1931 The 20th century’s worst water related disaster inundating 70,000 square miles and killing 3.5-4 million people."

We have been living through a relatively benign climate period compared to earlier centuries.

Feb 4, 2015 at 12:35 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

@Stonyground 12.24, very good book, apart from the CAGW drivel as you say, but then the guy is an archaeologist. There's even a hockey stick on p49 of the version I have, no attribution. There is an unrelated reference in the text, to a paper in Science by Keith Briffa and Timothy Osborn about tree ring dating. I wondered when I read the book, how the author could square the events he was describing with the small variations in temperature shown on the graph. I believe he also wrote a book about the Medieval Warm Period

Feb 4, 2015 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBritInMontreal

a good source of historical observations is:

Feb 4, 2015 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Wilson

Climate history is a French speciality, no doubt because of the quantity of archival material recording dates of the grape harvest etc.. The distinguished historian Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie has a monumental History of Climate which is a standard reference. It was therefore rather disturbing to see in the introduction to a small book consisting of a long interview with the author, Leroy Ladurie paid tribute to the work of Jones and Mann!
I'd recommend to readers of French “le Mythe Climatique” by Benoit Rittaud. You can see him in debate with IPCC vice president Jean Jouzel at
or read his articles at

Feb 4, 2015 at 1:03 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

dennisa - will you STOP listing these previous disasters - you know perfectly well that they never really happened (like the Medieval Warm Period) because they do NOT fit current thinking - or the models...

Feb 4, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

I follow this site, with the help of Google translation...

Feb 4, 2015 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

Lets face it, there are extreme weather events that have taken place in the UK within living memory that were similar to happen today we would be told 'Its unprecedented', 'Its worse than ever before!' etc etc. I'm thinking of things such as the winters of '47 and '62/63, the drought of '76, the storm surge of '53 and the very hot summer of '90. If things that have been experienced by people still alive can be thrown into the void of 'Didn't really happen' there's zero chance of stuff that is just in the history books being acknowledged.

Feb 4, 2015 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

Jim, you must remember that severe weather events, not recorded by affordable video equipment can't appear on YouTube, and can't be readily referenced worldwide. Therefore they did not exist.

Film footage of severe weather events prior to about 1980, may exist in such places as the BBC, but remains selectively irretrievable, ie can't be accessed, unless your selection, meets the selection requirements, of a select number of unelected people, specially selected, to understand selective selection.

I hope this clarifies any confusion, if not, please select Option 1, which deals with Selection Requirements ..........

Feb 4, 2015 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

It seems that you're trying to make the point that much "extreme weather" can be put down to natural variability. However, many such events were successfully attributed to witchcraft.

"European peasants believed themselves capable of distinguishing between ordinary bad weather and bewitched weather. Magical bad weather diverged from expected norms: unusually cold winters, late frosts, cold and wet summers, destructive thunderstorms, hailstorms." [Burns, Witch Hunts in Europe and America]

Feb 4, 2015 at 2:16 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Looks to me that there is no weird weather escalation.
1. one off anecdotal events don't count
2. what does count is rigorous statistical analysis
- I am not aware of anyone published analysis which shows a growth trend in weird weather
- I would guess that our GreenBlob friends have already had a go at these and have not found what they wanted and have therefore not published. Which is not what you are supposed to do ; you are supposed to publish whatever pattern you find/ don't find.

@ HaroldW
Ah "he's a witch !"...... I mean "he's a denialist"
I see "DenierFinder General" Greg Laden has just pointed his finger at Willie Soon ..cos he once wrote a couple of reports for Greenpeace

Feb 4, 2015 at 2:21 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I notice that many of the record high temperatures here were in the 30s (dust bowl era) and that the only one in this century was measured at a university.. :-)

Feb 4, 2015 at 2:33 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp


"European peasants believed themselves capable of distinguishing between ordinary bad weather and bewitched weather"

Just like Dame Julia, then!

Feb 4, 2015 at 2:38 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

jamesp (2:38 PM) - You might very well think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

Feb 4, 2015 at 3:46 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

I know Jean-Luc Audé (the author of the book that Andrew found) very well. He lives only a few Km away.

He is passionate about history and is very knowledgeable. He is a farmer, so in this book he had double interest.

Feb 4, 2015 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn de Melle

There is a piece of research that does the UK from a couple of years AD includes the great Humber flood that drowned 12,000 people and the same number of beasts, cattle. I will sort it out for those interested.

Feb 4, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Look here John

Feb 4, 2015 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

John de Melle

Where is that John.?

Feb 4, 2015 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

It is not good climate "science" to cherry pick climate-related disasters before 1950. Only post-1950 climate-related disasters are permitted.

Feb 4, 2015 at 4:33 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

None of this ever happened of course......Steam trains in the snow. 1950s.

Feb 4, 2015 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Re 'The Little Ice Age', I agree with Stonyground (12:24 PM) and BritInMontreal (12:48 PM) that the author disappoints with his uncritical conformance to the party line on climate with his unattributed hockey stick plot and more, but we should not be harsh on him. Amongst the list of people from whom he 'took advice' are Phil Jones and Crispin Tickell, neither of whom strike me as penetrating scientific scholars so much as people who saw attractive opportunities in the scare. The book is otherwise a very readable one, with vivid descriptions and lots of interesting information about the Medieval Warm Period as well as the LIA.

A pre-the-current-scaremongering-about-climate book about dramatic weather/climate events is 'The Elements Rage' by F W Lane, published in 1965. I always feel pleased to find books from the period before the Fall of Climate Science. It is easier to relax and enjoy them since they are liable to lack either apocalyptic guff or some gesture of obeisance to it. This one is about individual events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, waterspouts, hail, avalanches, and so on.

Feb 4, 2015 at 5:55 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The UK has its own version of this, and has had for over a 100 years. It's
Agricultural Records AD220 - 1977 [in the version I have, there are later editions] and it's by J.M. Stratton.

Don't go by the title, it's not confined to agricultural records e.g.
245: Many thousands of acres in Lincolnshire were flooded by the sea
890: A severe late frost which is reported to have killed many vines and caused mortality among cattle.
974: A great earthquake in England.
1252: A four months' drought which seriously affected crops.

and so forth. It's almost one disaster after another.

Feb 4, 2015 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Feb 4, 2015 at 4:21 PM | Stephen Richards

He live near Melle, in the Deux Sevres department. About 120 km east of La Rochelle, and roughly half way between Poitiers and Angouleme. He has written other books - more straight historical not weather.

Feb 4, 2015 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn de Melle

I'm 120kms south of there. Malheureusement ! I've passed both sides of it on several occasions. I have been searching for a definitive book on French geology. It should be one of the most interesting countries in europe.

Feb 4, 2015 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

It is not good climate "science" to cherry pick climate-related disasters before 1950. Only post-1950 climate-related disasters are permitted

Phillip Bratby

None of this ever happened of course......Steam trains in the snow. 1950s.

Ivor Ward

I remember the '50s well. knee deep in snow on the kent downs. '62 / 63 was also memorable. The only form of transport I could afford was a BSA C10. Snow wasn't on the ground for 3 months but there were lots of very snowy periods making the route to work 4 miles away pretty hairy.

Feb 4, 2015 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

M. Audé would be an interesting glass of wine. That is the conversation over a nice full bodied Bordeaux would be fabulous.

Feb 4, 2015 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

I suppose what we all really want to know is whether the twentieth century stood out in any way (related to climate) compared to the rest of the Holocene. Above all: was it unusually warm? Was there an unusual warming trend? The famous hockey stick publications got the publicity they did because they seemed to answer these questions; to some extent they were surely crafted in the expectation of feeding and fanning these expectations. Alas, they're all garbage.

So: proxies. Steve M. says he is now focussing on alkenones. He has also asked: where's the data and analysis on Lonnie Thompson's ice cores? Could it be that they don't form a hockey stick shape?

Finally: the search for extreme weather events, as in this post. There is no clear definition of "extreme weather event" or "storm," therefore no baseline data. Anecdotal evidence can bear a certain amount of weight.

Instead what we usually get is the live TV feed, questioning a boomer. Do you remember a storm like this ever happening before? No, and I've lived here all my life. Depending on someone's memory--and the boomers are now old enough to start to experience dementia to a significant degree.

Feb 4, 2015 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterLloyd R

Lloyd R (Feb 4, 2015 at 7:47 PM)

the boomers are now old enough to start to experience dementia to a significant degree.
Thanks a lot for that. I've expressed the same idea somewhere (though I'm blowed if I can remember where) as Chambers' First Historical Paradox: that by the time you've reached an age at which you can make useful historical comparisons based on experience, you're too past it for anyone to take any notice of your blatherings.
(And I've got a Second Historical Paradox, but it's slipped my mind...)
The significant bit of the hockeystick was not the upward-sweeping blade, which was based on temperature records, however faulty, but the flat handle, which is based on coral, stalactites, and the rings of ancient gnarled twisted pines at the limit of vegetation on mountains where nobody lives. The significance of the hockeystick story lies not just in the statistical shenanigans, but in the willingness of historians to bow down before pseudo-mathematicians who showed no interest in the history of climate as recorded by human beings who were there.
A few years ago a couple of Russian mathematicians were claiming to have proved scientifically that the eighth and ninth centuries were a monkish fabrication and that therefore Charlemagne never existed. The idea didn't catch on because there are images and accounts of Charlemagne. There are also images of mediaeval peasants doing their winter ploughing in miniskirts. Why won't they defend the Mediaeval Warming Period with equal conviction?

Feb 4, 2015 at 8:14 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The ladurie book mentioned above is called times of feast times of famine and is a fascinating compendium of climate.

The uk equivalent to the one in French is by C E Britten of the met office published in the 1930's. A never ending catalogue of weather disasters that have befallen these islands over the ladt 2000 years. The current climatic period is mostly very benign compared with many periods of the past


Feb 4, 2015 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyb

The next step may be that during the translation to English, the dates may be "homogenised" to ensure that all these disasters occurred when carbon dioxide emissions increased.

Feb 4, 2015 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

geoffchambers/Lloyd R

Why guess about past weather events in Britain? My weapon of choice is the book 'The Weather of Britain' by Robin Stirling, first published in 1982 but re-published in 1997. I pretty much guarantee that whatever the UK weather event, there will be a worse one recorded in the aforementioned book. All the events are meticulously reported and supported by plenty of data. It will be helpful if you can understand a synoptic chart.

318pp for 1p - not a bad deal.

Feb 4, 2015 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Stephen Richards:

The prize exhibit would have to be the British winter of 1946-7, when the effects of extreme weather were made worse by bad energy policy. The government seriously feared famine for a while. I'm not generally convinced that a big I-told-you-so event is really likely to be the result of the UK's current energy policy, but '46-7 shows that such things aren't beyond the realm of possibility.

Feb 4, 2015 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

More info on the book by C E Britton mentioned by tonyb at 8:35 PM ?:

Is this the book? Looks to be hard to get hold of.

Feb 4, 2015 at 11:09 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The study of the thermodynamics of the atmosphere lies wholly within the discipline of physics. Correct me if I’m wrong. but my understanding is that climatology courses do not include anywhere near as much physics as is covered in a degree in science with a major in physics, such as I have.

More importantly, physics is about understanding the real world. If you use equations and “laws” of physics, you need to know about the prerequisites for these to apply. Many of my students over the years have not understood such.

For example, the Stefan-Boltzmann equation only applies to true black and gray bodies, and such bodies have to be perfectly insulated against any loss of thermal energy by conduction and other sensible heat transfers. And of course a black body is not transparent like the thin surface layer of the oceans. So all James Hansen’s fiddling with back radiation in order to get the magical 390W/m^2 to “explain” the surface temperature of 288K is garbage, because radiation is not the primary determinant of that temperature, for the simple reason that it is not a black or gray body and only the solar radiation should be counted anyway.

You have to understand that you can only claim that sensible heat transfers occur only from warmer to cooler regions in a horizontal plane, because, as we saw above, the equations for thermodynamic potentials are derived with the assumption that gravitational potential energy does not vary.

You have to understand that the Second Law is all-pervasive and plays a part in determining what happens in all heat transfers and other energy transfers also. That’s why the density gradient is a result of the Second Law. To claim that the state of thermodynamic equilibrium has no density gradient in a gravitational field would be ludicrous. It is just as ludicrous to claim that it has no temperature gradient. There must be no unbalanced energy potentials, and that sure ain’t the case for the assumed isothermal troposphere.

It is not greenhouse gases which establish the temperature gradient: it is gravity. Until you understand that fact, you will never understand the downward convective heat transfers which explain why all planets’ surfaces are hotter than their tropospheres.

Feb 5, 2015 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Cottons

Well, there's weather, and then there's weather reporting:


Feb 5, 2015 at 1:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterjan

Some years back I found this link re Weather events in History. It may be of interest to some.

Feb 5, 2015 at 7:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

This is a good read and it can be picked up very cheaply:

I first read it when I was at school nearly 50 years ago and I've had copy ever since. Not necessarily the same copy because I keep passing it on ;)

It contains some weather related stuff as well as other natural events.

Feb 5, 2015 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterClovis Marcus

I've always found Project Gutenberg an excellent source of "first person" accounts of historical weather (climate?) related events.

and the very detailed Norfolk Annals:

Feb 6, 2015 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligulaJones

Caligula, thanks for plugging Gutenberg.

It's a great resource - I've mined it extensively for material on eugenics. People who claimed to be shocked about the extermination of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals etc under Hitler just weren't paying attention. It was mainstream thinking in "progressive" circles.

Plus, it has some early P G Wodehouse. For first timers, I recommend "Love Among the Chickens."

Feb 6, 2015 at 4:31 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Don't want to get too off-topic (although perhaps the discussion is more along the lines of a "science" that uses so much anecdotal "evidence"...I mean climate "science" of course), but the founder of Canada's nationalized healthcare system (i.e., like the UK's NHS) was a member of what would be the left-wing of the Labour party. His Master's thesis supported eugenics (and our Supreme Court just ruled that doctor-assisted suicide is legal).

Feb 6, 2015 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligulaJones

Hi Jean de Melle and Stephen Richards,

I knew JL Audé and his two brothers when I lived near Sauzé-Vaussais some years ago. Also their father, who farmed down the road from me and was wont to walk straight in to my abode and start moaning about Ségolène Royal from time to time. A nice chap, with some strong views. That was OK with me.

If you are still around and up to it, might we meet at a convenient point for a chat and a light lunch at a suitable routier, for example ? I’m near Aulnay.


Sep 13, 2017 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterErnie

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