After discovering fossilized bamboo in the 11th century, Shen Kuo deduced that the climate in northern China was different in the ancient past.
October 8, 2022
An 11th-century polymath called Shen Kuo was the first to recognize that the climate changed in the past, according to a science communicator simon clark Told New Scientist Live in London on October 8.
The history of weather and climate science is very Eurocentric, Clark said. Thus, in writing his book Firmament, released earlier this year, he looked at what was happening elsewhere and came across Shen’s work.
In a work of 1088 entitled Dream Pool Trials, Shen wrote about how a landslide exposed a cavity in a riverbank in what is now Yan’an in northern China’s Shaanxi province, where conditions are not conducive to bamboo growth. But in the cavity, Shen found bamboo that “turned to stone”.
Intrigued by this discovery, Shen suggested that in ancient times the climate of the region must have been different. It’s arguably the first written account of how the climate in specific places might change over time, Clark said.
Although Shen’s work has been translated, his first description of paleoclimatology is not widely recognized, Clark said. new scientist after his speech. “It’s known but obscure,” he says.
Much later, in the 17th century, Robert Hooke suggested that giant tortoise fossils found in Dorset, UK, meant the climate there must have been warmer. Later, in the 19th century, it was recognized that much of Europe was once covered in ice and the field of paleoclimatology began to develop.
In the 1890s, Svante Arrhenius and TC Chamberlain independently realized that burning coal could change the climate.
Shen, who lived from 1031 to 1095, made many contributions to many other fields. In Dream Pool Trialsfor example, he was also the first to describe a magnetic compass – a century before the first account in Europe.
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