Climate change and Tolkien

Cue the shrieks of climate-change deniers: several British climate scientists have entered the fantasy realm.

In their spare time, using supercomputers of the Advanced Centre for Research Computing at the University of Bristol in England, a group of scientists explored lands usually trodden by Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf: Middle Earth.

They applied climate models — typically used to simulate climates from the last Ice Age to the planetary future — to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, and delivered their findings via a statement.  They even drafted a fake scientific paper (PDF), with the gravitas expected of a serious undertaking for a peer-reviewed journal such as Nature or Science. (The author, of course, was the wizard Radagast the Brown.)

Radagast’s conclusion?

“The Shire, where the hobbit Bilbo Baggins lived before he was whisked away on his unexpected adventure described in The Hobbit, had a climate very similar to that of Lincolnshire and Leicestershire in the UK. However, Mordor, the land of the evil Sauron, had a climate similar to that of Los Angeles and western Texas.”

Good to know. Shame the Bristol scientist’s language isn’t quite up to par with the spellbinding rhythms of Tolkien’s, who might have preceded the adventure with a choice phrase from The Hobbit, like, “Far over the misty mountains cold. To dungeons deep, and caverns old!” They really shouldn’t give up their day jobs to become writers.

But as the scientists admitted their goal was, partly, to have a bit of fun, and explain the workings of real-life models to the public. It wasn’t a bad publicity stunt, either, adding levity to a science field fraught with nefarious politics and commerce.

Can’t wait for their analysis of drought in Narnia and flooding of Hogwarts.

Copyright © Deborah Jones 2013

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