"Spaces of experience and horizons of expectation": the implications of extreme weather events, past, present and future

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Histories, Lanuages and Cultures

Abstract

Predicting the climate of the future and determining how different communities might be affected by and respond to climate change has become an issue of global importance. There is growing concern over the impacts of interannual climate variability and anomalous and 'extreme' weather events such as droughts, floods, storm events and unusually high or low temperatures. While social and economic systems have generally evolved to accommodate some deviations from 'normal' weather conditions, this is rarely true of extremes. For this reason, such events can have the greatest and most immediate social and economic impact of all climate changes.

Yet extreme weather events are as much social texts as material occurrences - as well as being biophysical events, they are also socially and culturally constructed and interpreted. Geographical context influences how individuals and communities experience the natural world. Different regional circumstances, particular physical conditions, an area's social and economic activities and embedded cultural knowledges, norms, values, practices and infrastructures all affect community experiences, reactions and responses to extreme weather. The impact of extreme weather may even vary between individuals, depending on a multitude of factors, which are in turn informed by cultural and historical experiences.

The way in which an extreme event is experienced and perceived determines whether it becomes inscribed into the memory of a community or an individual in the form of oral history, ideology, custom, behaviour, narrative, artefact, technological and physical adaptation, including adaptations to the working landscape and built environment. These different forms of remembering and recording the past represent central media through which information on past events is curated, recycled and transmitted across generations. In this regard, experience or awareness of unusual or extreme events can effectively condition how people comprehend and respond to the problems of risk and uncertainty with respect to the timing and impact of extreme events in the future.

The construction of regionally specific climatic histories and historical extreme weather events, and investigations of the memories of and responses to these events, must form a crucial component of any research that seeks to understand the nature of events that might take place in the future. These histories are also important if we are to be able to assess how different communities in different contexts might be affected by, comprehend and respond to future events. The purpose of the proposed project, therefore, is to examine the nature, timing and socio-economic and cultural consequences of, and responses to, climatic extremes in the UK. This will be achieved through a series of case study-based investigations across the UK and will cover an extended period between 1700 and the present. This study will employ a combination of archival investigation and oral history approaches in order to construct episodes of extreme weather and to explore whether and how these events affected the lives of local people and became inscribed into the cultural fabric and social memory of selected local communities within the case study regions. We will also explore how the recording of these events has changed overtime and is still changing.

The project will work in concert with a number of non academic partners whose roles necessitate an understanding of the history of extreme events and their cultural implications. Specifically we will collaborate with English Heritage and the Meteorological Office through their Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions Over the Earth (ACRE) initiative. The project will help both institutions better appreciate the cultural implications of extreme weather in the regions and communities within which they operate and the ways in which they might anticipate future impacts in their work.

Planned Impact

This research project recovers and integrates evidence that will provide a comprehensive history of extreme weather events and their cultural implications in different case study regions of the UK. The results will be of benefit to a wide range of potential users, including the private sector, government agencies, policy makers, the public sector and the wider public. Our weather and climate histories will feed directly into related data repositories and initiatives, including those managed by our partners on this application, the Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) (http://www.met-acre.org/) initiative of the Meteorological Office. We will help ACRE in its mission to facilitate the recovery, extension, quality control and consolidation of global historical terrestrial and marine instrumental surface data covering the last 250 years.

Understanding the implications of extreme weather on the UK's historic environment, its buildings, gardens and working landscapes is a priority concern for English Heritage, another of our project partners. Our work on the impacts of events on the built and natural environment will yield information fundamental for planning future adaptation strategies for the UK's built infrastructure. It will feed into English Heritage initiatives on these themes, including their statements on Climate Change and the Historic Environment and their "Climate Change and Your Home" website.

This research will be of benefit to the RGS-IBG and its members by contributing case study material to its 'Teaching and Learning Resources for Schools' and for the'Climate4Classrooms'initiative - a project designed to draw together leading experts, teachers, young people, both nationally and internationally, to increase local knowledge about climate and climate change. We will focus on the development of interactive project resources, which will provide students with a toolkit for undertaking their own research on cultural inscription of climate change impacts.

Our contacts include private sector organisations with interests in the history of extreme weather events. Project results will be made available to the British Hydrological Society and specifically their free-access Chronology of British Hydrological Events project, which includes over 8000 accounts of pre-instrumental hydrological events from around the UK. The project applicants also have links with the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and will forge links with the new Natural Resources Body for Wales (as from April 2013), responsible in England, Scotland and Wales respectively for helping organisations adapt to flooding and droughts. The regionally specific information on extreme events and their impacts, and on changing public perceptions of risk, will contribute to their climate change adaptation strategies. Other non-academic beneficiaries include the Health Protection Agency (HPA) which advises on health implications of extreme weather events such as the flooding in the South West in 2007.

The outcomes of this project will be of interest to third sector community and enthusiast groups. The PI and Co-Is have strong links with amateur meteorological and natural history organisations and there are opportunities for publicising this research through their websites, bulletins and journals. The project will contribute to LlenNatur's ('Nature Lore') free-access chronology of weather accounts from Wales. Other community groups that will benefit from the research findings include local resilience fora in each of the case study regions, including Nottingham/Nottinghamshire Local Resilience Forum; NHSScotland Resilience Forum; Norfolk Prepared; Wales Resilience; and Devon, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Resilience Forum. The project will provide these groups with information on local places at risk from extreme events and evidence of past, and insights into future community responses to those events.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/K005782/1 30/11/2013 31/12/2016 £848,683
AH/K005782/2 Transfer AH/K005782/1 01/04/2017 30/09/2017 £39,340
 
Title Commissioned play-"The Storm Officer" 
Description Inspired by the extreme weather database (TEMPEST), The Storm Officer is a rich journey, and an entertainment, which weaves together story, songs, strange characters, a thousand years of extreme weather and real experiences from the Cumbrian floods of December 2015. The performance has been specially commissioned by Georgina Endfield and Lucy Veale as part of their 'Weather Extremes' exhibition at the Weston Gallery. It has been written by Matt Black www.matt-black.co.uk. The Storm Officer will be performed for the first time on 17th March, 2017. Wild Stories and Songs of Extreme Weather written by Matt Black Fri 17 Mar 1.30pm-2.45pm Djanogly Theatre Admission Free 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact At the time of writing the performance has yet to take place. 
URL http://www.lakesidearts.org.uk/special-events/event/3399/the-storm-officer.html
 
Description We have reconstructed long term variations in weather acrsos the case study regions of the project; we have begun to identify place and region specific extreme weather risks and identified how people have coped with and responded to extreme weather over time in these places.
Exploitation Route The database is currently being used in University level teaching and our work is providing the basis for a range of secodnary school level educational resources via the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers who are partners in the project. There is a lot of interest in the research outcomes from enthusiast communities- amateur and popular meteorological organisations.
Sectors Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/geography/extreme-weather/search/
 
Description The TEMPEST data base has now been created and is available as an open access public resource, This is now being used by the public but is also about to be used for teaching purposes by the Open Universityon a Geography mdoule about weather/climate and the key concept for that section is discourse, and the key skill (within the block's overarching skill of interpretation) is context. This will be a second level OU module 'nature and society' being made by the geog dept. (George Revill is chairing the module). The resource is also being made available to the Local GOvernment Records Offices whose collections have provided some of the content of the database.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description AHRC Follow on
Amount £80,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R004595/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 10/2018
 
Title Deposit of data with Centre for Environmental Data Analysis 
Description TEMPEST (Tracking Extremes of Meteorological Phenomena Experienced in Space and Time) is the major output of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project "Spaces of Experience and Horizons of Expectation: Extreme Weather in the UK, Past, Present and Future (which ran from 2013-2017)". . TEMPEST was designed as a freely accessible and user-friendly database resource on the UK's weather and climate history. TEMPEST is comprised of narrative accounts of extreme weather events of all types, extracted from documentary materials located in a range of archival repositories in the UK (consequentially, please see the quality statement note below concerning data issues). The information has been extracted from a wide range of documents, including letters, diaries, church records, school log-books and many others. The entries span more than 400 years - some as early as 1346 - of weather history and relate to places across the UK, though the data search was focused in five case-study regions: Central England, Southwest England, East Anglia, Wales, and Northwest Scotland. . Each event entry or narrative has been assigned to at least one weather type, is dated (at least to a year), and is geographically referenced (using digital coordinates). Many also contain material relating to the impacts of the weather event and responses to it. In addition to information on extreme weather events, TEMPEST contains details of the original documents, their authors, and the collections and repositories in which they are held. TEMPEST is searchable by all of these fields.. Users are advised to read the quality statement carefully with regards to possible issues in date and location accuracy and the way "extreme" events were documented. Additionally, users should be aware that the period covered by the dataset includes the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. In order to manage that change 11 days were omitted from the year 1752, i.e. the day after the 2 September 1752 was 14 September, in accordance with the Calendar Act of 1751. Until September 1752 the New Year began on 25 March (Lady Day) but dual dating was commonplace for many years before, adding a further layer of complication to events that took place from 1 January to 24 March, and making 1751 a short year running from 25 March to 31 December! Scotland had changed the start of the year to 1 January in 1600. Where clear, the Gregorian calendar date has been used, providing further details in the notes section.. . 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact We have made available a freely available set of over 18000 individual narrative accounts of extreme weather in a UK context dating back to the mid 14th century. This is available for a range of stakeholder uses among those interested in environmental risk and vulnerabilities as well as those interested in response to meteorological events and crises. 
URL http://catalogue.ceda.ac.uk/uuid/d2cfd2af036b4d788d8eddf8ddf86707
 
Title Tempest data base (public interface) 
Description We have been developing a public facing version of the TEMPEST database, a unique data base of over 15000 descriptions and accounts of historical extreme weather events which have affected the UK between the 1650s and the present day. The database is searchable by date, event type, place, impact and response as well as the author of particular documents. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The database was requested by Historic England who were compiling a report on the impact of extreme weather on heritage assets along the UK coastline. The database is being used by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) to develop a second of educational resources for Geography teaching in schools 
URL http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/geography/extreme-weather/search/index2.php
 
Description Collaboration with Royal Geographical Society with the INstitute of British Geographers 
Organisation Royal Geographical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution We are providing material which will be used for the preparation of educational resources for Geography teaching in Schools
Collaborator Contribution They are helping to identify the most appropriate material and case study material for use in educational resources
Impact This is still in development
Start Year 2013
 
Description Working in a partnership with the Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Globe (ACRE), part of the Meteorological Office 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Department Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are sharing knowledge on the rescue and transcription of historical documents revealing information about historical extreme weather events
Collaborator Contribution ACRE are helping in the identification of sources of information of value to both us and them
Impact This research project recovers and integrates evidence that will provide a comprehensive history of extreme weather events and their cultural implications in different case study regions of the UK. The results will be of benefit to a wide range of potential users, including the private sector, government agencies, policy makers, the public sector and the wider public. Our weather and climate histories will feed directly into related data repositories and initiatives, including those managed by our partners on this application, the Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) (http://www.metacre. org/) initiative of the Meteorological Office. We will help ACRE in its mission to facilitate the recovery, extension, quality control and consolidation of global historical terrestrial and marine instrumental surface data covering the last 250 years.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Hull plenary presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This talk was entitled 'So Much Bad Weather' and was delivered by Lucy Veale (University of Liverpool, History)
It was delivered on October 5, 2017 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm as a public lecture which preceded the Risks, Hazards, Disasters and Cultures (RHDC) AHRC-funded workshop on Friday 6th October.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2008,2016,2017
 
Description Memory of Trees presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Paper presentation given at a conference held at the University of Liverpool, coordinated by Anna Burton (Department of English) and entitled 'The Memory of Trees'. The paper was delivered on the 20th April 2017, The paper was entitled 'A thousand years, ten thousand tempests, lightnings, winds and wintry violence trunk after trunk, scathed, hollow, grey, gnarled': exploring the histories of extreme weather and trees".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/literature-and-science/blog/events/memoryoftrees/
 
Description Participation in Workshop in York 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact James Bowen from the original rpoject team was a participant in workshop 'Landscapes in the Making: New Histories of Environmental Praxis in Premodern Europe', University of York, 11 April 2017 organised by Drs. John Morgan and Dr. Tom Johnson with a view to making an AHRC Research Networking grant application.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description RGS Annual Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Georgina Endfield and Lucy Veale presented a paper on Future weather in session on 'Where next? Historical geographies of the future', RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London 30th August- 2nd Sept 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description SUNDAY TIMES 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in the SUNDAY TIMES coinciding with the launch of the TEMPEST database. The article focused on the relationship between volcanic events and extreme and unusual weather
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2011,2017
URL https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/supervolcanoes-blast-uk-with-extreme-weather-52nxhrjrm
 
Description Staffordshire Records Office 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participated in a study day organised by two Collaborative Doctoral Award students based at the University of Liverpool, Staffordshire Record Office, 10 February 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2018
 
Description University of Liverpool podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Georgina Endfield recrded a podcast for the University of Liverpool in February 2018. This was released on 20th February.
The podcast focuses on examples of historical extreme weather events taken from the project work undertaken by the team. The podcast explored what these histoicla examples may reveal about contemporary vulnerability to extreme and unusual weather events in the UK.
Read more at https://www.online.liverpool.ac.uk/connect-with-us/podcasts#GcxuMdDBU4UwfTgF.99. This is now available to download on iTunes and aims to bring you closer to some of the academic experts, authors and innovative thinkers from the University, who through their in-depth analyses, research and discoveries are affecting positive change in the world today.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.online.liverpool.ac.uk/connect-with-us/podcasts