Travels in Europe-Part 1
Posted by Jeff Id on February 6, 2010
Guest post by Tony Brown
This is the view from the hill above my house circa 1890. It overlooks the town of Teignmouth on England’s South West coast, where a fascinating parade of characters have lived over the centuries.
Figure 1 View of Teignmouth, Devon http://www.oldukphotos.com/devon_teignmouth.htm
The question today is which of them should we follow in our next excursion into historic climate change, as evidenced by instrumental temperature records?
From my window I can see the landing place of the last invasion of England by a foreign power which destroyed the town in 1690 -a cannonball from the bombardment was found just a few months ago. Its location in French Street tells us who the culprits were. Central England Temperature (CET) during that year was a distinctly chilly 8.92C (although the South West would be markedly warmer due to the influence of the Gulf Stream and prevailing South Westerly winds).
From the harbour opposite, where fishermen still land their catches-EU regulations permitting- the town’s Newfoundland whalers urged the Royal Society in the early 1800’s to send a fleet to find out why the Arctic ice was melting. But their story has already been described by me here; https://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/historic-variation-in-arctic-ice-tony-b/
Close by, the Babbage family moved into the old Rowdens house in 1808, Benjamin Babbage who became a warden of St. Michael’s Church was a banking partner of the Praeds who owned the local Bitton Estate. His son Charles Babbage, (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was a mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, who originated the concept of a programmable computer. Parts of his uncompleted mechanisms are on display in the London Science Museum. In 1991, a perfectly functioning difference engine was constructed from Babbage’s original plans.
Figure 2; fully operational difference engine at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine
But this story is not his. Looking at the town sheltering under St Michael’s church -situated right on the beach under the cliffs beyond the pier-serves as a reminder of the funds raised by churchgoers throughout England to recover white slaves seized from their homes in villages all around the South West-including Teignmouth- by Barbary corsairs from around 1620.
Giles Miltons book ‘White Gold’ provbides an intriguing account of the North African white slave trade during this period. It includes a description of an attack on a Cornish fishing village by a fleet of Islamic corsairs. The warriors, wielding scimitars, stream into the cobbled streets and force their way into cottages, taverns and churches to seize the villagers and carry them off to the Moroccan port of Salé to be sold as slaves. This abiding folk memory was so deeply ingrained that even my mother’s generation (born 1920) still feared the white slavers that were a byword for terrible cruelty.
Figure 3 ‘The Bitter draught of slavery’ by Ernest Normand shows a slave trader offering his captive to a Mid East potentate). http://www.bridgemanartondemand.com/art/101737/The_Bitter_Draught_of_Slavery_1885
Centre of the white slave trade was North Africa, particularly Morocco and present day Algeria. It is reckoned that some 1.5 million white slaves were taken from towns, villages and vessels throughout Europe. To the left of the port in the first panoramic photo is Bitton House-formerly the home of Admiral Lord Pellew- who in a stroke of delicious irony avenged the capture of his own ancestor who had been seized 100 years earlier from a Cornish village and kept as a slave by the Barbary pirates for decades. Admiral Pellew comprehensively destroyed the pirates in Algiers in August 1816 and liberated up to 20,000 Christian slaves taken from all over Europe, from Iceland in the North, to Spain in the south, with many of Pellew’s countrymen amongst them. It was a close run thing with the outcome of the battle in the balance until superior cannon eventually destroyed Algiers-to this day reproductions of the cannon used can be seen in the grounds of Bitton House.
1816 was known as the year without a summer-the third coldest in the entire 350 year CET record- and was thought to have been caused by a combination of low solar activity and the eruption of Mt Tambora
Interesting as he is, this is not Pellew’s story either. Two hundred yards away from Bitton House lay the home of Thomas Luny-one of Britain’s greatest marine artists who took a commission from Pellew to paint a depiction of the Algiers battle in 1820
Figure 4: Bombardment of Algiers by Thomas Luny
But this is not Luny’s story either, as we hasten past his house and stand outside the dwelling where, in spring 1818, the poet John Keats stayed and completed his epic poem Endymion. Something of the climate of this town-influenced by the Gulf Stream and its location in the lee of Upland Dartmoor-can be seen in this account.
Keats’ arrival in Teignmouth on Wednesday 11th March 1818 coincided with an appalling squall of bad weather, in which rain and heavy sea mists rolled into the port town and must have dampened the spirits of both the poet and his ailing brother. The inclement conditions certainly drew from Keats an exasperated and ironic tenor in a letter to his friend Benjamin Bailey of 13th March 1818:
I have used it [his wet jacket] these three last days to keep out the abominable Devonshire Weather–by the by you may say what you will of Devonshire: the truth is, it is a splashy, rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody, muddy, slipshod county. The hills arevery beautiful, when you get a sight of ’em; the primroses are out,–but then you are in; the cliffs are of a fine deep colour,but then the clouds are continually vieing with them (Forman 1984: 241).
The weather was what locals call “mixie,” mind you Keats must eventually have thought well of the town as he also composed a charming poem-the first verse here;
HERE ALL THE SUMMER COULD I STAY’
For there’s Bishop’s teign
And King’s teign
And Coomb at the clear Teign head –
Where close by the stream
You may have your cream
All spread upon barley bread.
(The first literary mention of the famous Devonshire cream tea?)
Despite the rain the 1818 CET was perfectly respectable at 9.84C virtually identical to the similarly wet summer of 2008 at 9.96C
However, it is not Keats story we shall tell, for a few doors further on was the home of a prodigy who became an internationally renowned harpist
Figure 5: Elias Parish Alvars born February 28 1808 died January 25 1849
The baptismal record found at St James’s Church, West Teignmouth-the church I can see from my window-, reports: “Eli, son of Joseph and Mary Ann Parish”. His father, an organist, voice teacher and book dealer in Teignmouth, gave him his first musical instruction and he became one of the worlds greatest harpists.
It is his story we shall tell in climate terms as he travelled widely to cities in Europe that have extended instrumental temperature records and this enables us to follow the evolution of the European climate through -and beyond- his short life.
Whilst reading, why not click on the link below and enjoy short samples of harp music from various composers including Alvars?
His birth in 1808 saw a distinctly Little Ice age CET mean temperature of only 8.84C with a decadal 1800-1809 CET of 9.17C a prelude to what remains as the coldest decade from that day to this during 1810-1819 at 8.798C. This era was recounted in my account of the early life of Charles Dickens here;
However, Elias’s remaining time in England-before he left for numerous concert tours in Europe in 1828- was one of a steadily warming climate-albeit in fits and starts.
1822 at 10.05C (CET) 1826 at 10.07C and 1828 at 10.30C all bear very close comparison with the 2000-2009 decade just finished which concluded with 2008 at 9.96c and 2009 at 10.11c. Parish finished his studies and left for Florence in 1828, where he remained for a year, studying singing with the Guglielmo family and composition with Maximilian Leidesdorf. He started using the pseudonym “Albert Alvars.”
Figure 6: Florence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence
We have records from 1814 onwards from Bologna-close by Florence but situated on the other side of the Apennine mountains.
Figure 7 Bologna from 1814 to current http://climatereason.com/LittleIceAgeThermometers/Europe.html )
The warm and cold periods with a trend up to today, then a fall, can be clearly seen.
At this stage readers will divide into one of four groups. Warmists will immediately point to recent decades as proof positive of global warming, the historian will shake their head at the absurdity of trying to infer trends from such a short record, the excitable sceptic will murmur darkly about the urban heat island effect not being properly accounted for, whilst the objective sceptic will ask whether something else could account for the recent upturn?
So is this clear evidence of climate change, or are there other factors at work?
The link below explains something of the history of this temperature record-much examined because of its longevity-which enables us to ask the basic question; Are the figures accurate?
Abstract from above
“The Bologna meteorological record is one of the oldest and most complete among the series already collected for Europe. Data from the regions south of the Alps being extremely sparse, this station is of great importance for all climatic reconstructions dating as far back as the beginning of the 18th century. The focus here is on the temperature series, because it presents some a priori problems with respect to the series analysis itself. These problems relate to the homogeneity of the temperature record, which is affected by the use of different thermometers within the record, the statistical reconstruction of the thermometric scales, and the drift in calibration of one of these instruments. After correcting for these heterogeneities, the temperature series indicate a thermal behaviour in agreement with other historical European sources. The Bologna series is characterised by a warm period during the first decades of the 18th century, with large decreases in temperature in 1740 and 1742, and a positive trend from 1742 to the end of the record. The behaviour of the Bologna temperature series is in good agreement with the series for Central England, De Bilt (Netherlands) and Padua (Italy).”
The warming referred to in the early 1700s in De Bilt and CET is captured here
So the record has been ‘corrected’ and is now considered accurate, and then has been compared to other longer ‘corrected’ records. It demonstrates a gradual and natural temperature rise through the centuries since the depths of the LIA. It is interrupted periodically by the peaks and troughs also seen in other instrumental records. So the historians’ caution of the relatively short temperature record in Bologna can be partially vindicated, as one of the peaks in the early 1700s seen in the other records was very similar to that of the current era. The difference is a fraction of one degree Centigrade.
This study though doesn’t really answer definitively the question as to whether Bologna has experienced an extra sharp twist to temperatures by man in the modern era, so we must look for other avenues of evidence to confirm the reasons for the recent up-tick, tiny as it is when examined against the broader sweep of history. We shall attempt to do this in Part 2 and come up with some unexpected results. Also in the next instalment of this account we follow Parish’s glittering career as he visits Stockholm and Russia, meets a Sultan in Constatinople and consorts with the crowned heads of Europe. He then suffers a setback by getting into serious financial difficulties as violent riots engulf Vienna.