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ScienceShot: The Climate of Middle-Earth

6 December 2013 4:30 pm
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ScienceShot: The Climate of Middle-Earth

Dan Lunt

One does not simply model the climate of Mordor; unless, of course, you are the University of Bristol’s Dan Lunt, who has created a climate simulation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Using supercomputers and a model originally developed by the U.K. Met Office, his study compares Middle-earth’s climate with those of our (modern) and the dinosaur’s (Late Cretaceous) worlds. The Middle-earth model (pictured, showing predicted ground coverage: with grass in light green, trees in darker green, desert in yellow, and ice in white) reveals that the Shire—home to the Hobbits—would enjoy weather much like England’s East Midlands, with an average temperature of 7°C and about 61 cm of rainfall each year. An epic journey to Mount Doom, however, would see a shift in climate, with the subtropical Mordor region being more like Los Angeles or western Texas. The study—released today on the University of Bristol’s website and available in English, Elvish, and Dwarvish—also shows that the elves probably sailed from the Grey Havens because of that region’s prevailing easterly winds, while the dry climate east of the Misty Mountains is formed by a rain shadow. Lunt, who undertook the work in his spare time, hopes his work might create interest in the possibilities offered by climate modeling. His paper shows how any climate (imagined, real, or future) can be simulated, he notes, while discussing both the strengths and limitations of such models as well as the importance of understanding how climates are affected by increased levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

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