Jeremy Shiers: 2ºC Warmer 5000 years Ago In Orkneys

Posted: October 14, 2014 by tallbloke in Analysis, climate, Natural Variation, paleo

Guest post from Jeremy Shiers (@JeremyShiers), whose blog is at

Temperatures were 2ºC warmer 5000 years ago according to
archaeological and geological evidence from Skara Brae in Orkneys,

Professor Ian Stewart presented the series Making Scotland’s
, one program, part 5, focused on historic climate.

I produced the following chart from 3 separate charts shown on the
program, the original charts are shown lower down.

Temperature Scotland 4000BC to 1400AD

It is clear

  1. current temperatures
    are not unusual
  2. there have been a
    number of changes in temperature over the millenia

Here is the section which presents the archaeological and geological
evidence temperatures were 2ºC higher around 3000BC and have cycled
since then.

Here are the 3 individual charts I spliced together

Temperatures Scotland 4000 to 1000BC

Temperature Scotland 3000BC to 1000AD

For whatever reason the scale on this chart was different to the
previous two, so I had to guess (err I mean estimate) rescaling to fit
on one chart.

Temperature Scotland Little Ice Age

It is interesting to compare the temperatures from Making
Scotland’s Landscape
with these 3 charts which come from page 202
of Working
Group 1 of IPCC AR1,
the first IPCC report issued in 1990. Whilst
they not exactly identical they show the same pattern of falling and
rising temperatures and more or less the same times.

IPCC AR1 Temperatures last 1000 years

IPCC AR1 Temperatures since 10000 BC

IPCC AR1 Temperature Last Million Years

It seems to me as these records show past temperatures being higher
than at present

  1. If CO2 is
    responsible for higher temperatures then CO2 was higher in the past and
    this higher level could not be caused by humans.
  2. Some mechanism other
    than CO2 was reponsible for previous higher temperatures, so how do we
    know current warming is solely due to CO2, in fact how do we know CO2
    makes any appreciable difference?
  3. As there has been
    cooling of several degrees in the past some mechanism must have caused
    this, how do we know it will not cause more cooling in the future?

Which ever way you look at it the past temperature record seems to
show there is no reason to believe either

  • Human emissions of
    CO2 are solely responsible for current temperature
  • Temperatures will
    not fall at some time in the future.

If this is true all the measures being taken to avoid raising CO2
(and hence temperatures) are a waste of money, e.g.

  • Windfarms
  • Closing coal fire power stations
  • Burning wood from USA in UK power stations
  • Trying to stop using fossil fuels
  • Knocking down sea walls in face of rising sea levels

What do you think?


  1. oldbrew says:

    Professor Ian Stewart never misses an opportunity to blow his global warming trumpet on various BBC series in recent years. This is from the blurb for this programme:

    ‘During the Industrial Revolution, Scottish scientists and engineers helped unwittingly set off a chain of events that today we know as climate change – a process that is transforming our atmosphere and warming our planet. Professor Iain Stewart looks at how Scotland is on the verge of another revolution: the transformation of a carbon economy to a green one.’

    So factor that in to anything he comes up with related to climate. He always presents as fact that man is doing this and that to the climate even though it’s still highly contentious.

  2. Jaime says:

    I think the faultless, inescapable and devastating logic of this simple argument utterly destroys alarmism and, if not actually disproving the theory of man-made global warming, does bring it into very considerable doubt. In conjunction with the wealth of research which also seriously questions so many of the central tenets of CAGW theory, global warming alarmism should, by all rights, be virtually dead – a zombie science. The fact that it is not is testament to the huge funds diverted to keeping it alive in our academic institutions and the huge vested interests still residing in the spin-off renewables sector, propped up by a pervasive political and social ideology which is profoundly misanthropic and anti-industrial.

  3. tallbloke says:

    Well, yes. You don’t really need to ask why the BBC and Ian Stewart chose o show us bits of this temperature plot at a time rather than the whole thing at once do you?

    Nice bit of detective work at the crime scene there Jeremy!

  4. I love the way Ian Stewart, having present archaeological and geological evidence it was a least 2C warmer in 3000BC and had cooled and warm since then, says later in the program it is important to get rid of fossil fuels as this time CO2 was causing the warming.

    This time it’s different – where have I heard that before. And every time it was!

    Possibly Ian Stewart has had his brains addled or possibly he realises he won’t be fronting BBC documentaries no more if he doesnt toe the party line.

    I feel the media carry a huge part of the blame as any ‘debate’ about climate change usually involves people from FOE, Greeanpeace or worse Natalie Benett which precludes any discussion of actual facts.

    I would like to hear more from UKIP on this too. Nigel Farage made some comments on wind farms whilst he was in Clacton, but fairly muted.

    Perhaps there is a genuine reason people have had their brains addled (assuming they had some in the first place). This clip which Steve Goddard highlighted a while ago bears regular viewing


  5. oldbrew says:

    Not forgetting that some things were different 5000 years ago…

  6. Phill says:

    I remember visiting Skara Brae a few years ago and reading in the display there that it was believed to have been 2C warmer at the time the village was built. The guide book from Historic Scotland says simply, “Scotland’s climate worsened towards the end of the second millennium BC, becoming cooler and wetter.” I also picked up a book, “North Scandinavian History” which has this to say, “In the stone age there was a period of much warmer climate than today. We speak of the Atlantic period, from 7,000 to 4,000 BC, when the average temperature was 1.5 – 2.0 C warmer than now and the expanses of Finnmark were covered in pine forests. It is also mentioned that the tree line on the mountains was then maybe 200 meters higher than today. Or we say the biotopes then were richer, and that is was easier for Stone Age man to survive than is commonly imagined.”

    Here a sea core off the South Australian coast has shown the same thing, ie that temperatures in the Holocence were around 2C warmer than now (see figure 2). The conclusion states: “…..Finally, the SST evolution during the Holocene compares well with information on hydrological and vegetation changes from south eastern Australia showing a warm early Holocence at a time of generally wetter conditions and a subsequent decrease in temperature at a time of increasing aridity after ~6.5ka.”

  7. Phill says:

    Whoops. The guide book says worsened…. becoming cooler and wetter. Please correct.

    [reply] done

  8. Jaime says:

    Of course, if you were to argue this case with any reasonably scientifically literate CAGW advocate, the first thing they would say is ‘But this is only evidence of regional climate change, not global’, conveniently forgetting that there is abundant scientific evidence showing that the LIA and MWP in particular were globally synchronous. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that such was also the case with the Holocene Maximum. Climate fluctuations (measurably proportionate to, or significantly greater than the modern warming) throughout the Holocene are a huge inconvenience to these people who rely upon such terminology as ‘unprecedented’ and cook up hockey stick graphs of temperature reconstructions to prove their point. Hence the current trend to rewrite geological history by scrapping the Holocene and renaming it as the Anthropocene.

    One can see how desirable such an initiative would be – any climatic events occurring within the Anthropocene would be assumed to be not entirely ‘natural’, hence they would just become part of the all-encompassing narrative of ‘climate change’ (TM). Holocene Deniers, every last one of them.

  9. Phil the news of Skara Brae being warmer in 3000BC hasn’t reached everyone, which is strange if there is sign saying this.

    Prof Alice Roberts Prehistory episode of Digging For Britain featured a segment in Orkneys where she waffled on about how inhabitants had to live such harsh conditions.

    Presumably she didn’t watch Ian Stewarts program either

  10. markstoval says:

    Does anyone have a link to a chart of the average daily temperatures for the entire Holocene?

  11. Jaime says:

    Comment stuck in moderation. Can’t imagine why.

    [reply] it’s the D word!

  12. oldbrew

    things may have been different 5000 years ago, including apsidal precession.

    there have been several periods of warming and cooling since then

    did they all have the same cause?

    did they each have a different cause?

    are there many different effects which combine in different ways at different times to produce a similar effect?

    this time it’s different because it’s co2??

    should we just abandon observations in favour of the models?

  13. oldbrew says:

    Single graphs don’t necessarily answer all questions, that’s all. The tilt of the Earth is considered to have some effect on regional climates.

    I don’t claim to know what effect it had 5000 years ago in the Orkneys, compared to today.

  14. Jaime says:

    Ah, yes, I did wonder about that when 2nd try failed too. Thanks.

  15. oldbrew says:

    From Wikipedia:

    ‘The Holocene Climate Optimum (HCO) was a warm period during roughly the interval 9,000 to 5,000 years B.P. This event has also been known by many other names, including: Hypsithermal, Altithermal, Climatic Optimum, Holocene Optimum, Holocene Thermal Maximum, and Holocene Megathermal.
    This warm period was followed by a gradual decline until about two millennia ago.’

  16. Jaime says:

    Wikipedia presents this graph of more recent temperature reconstructions, showing the traditional hockey stick

    but with this caveat:

    “Because of the limitations of data sampling, each curve in the main plot was smoothed (see methods below) and consequently, this figure can not resolve temperature fluctuations faster than approximately 300 years. Further, while 2004 appears warmer than any other time in the long-term average, and hence might be a sign of global warming, it should also be noted that the 2004 measurement is from a single year (actually the fourth highest on record, see Image:Short Instrumental Temperature Record.png for comparison). It is impossible to know whether similarly large short-term temperature fluctuations may have occurred at other times, but are unresolved by the available resolution.”

    Meaning, you can’t legitimately compare the very high resolution instrumental record with smoothed proxies and claim that this shows current warming is ‘unprecedented’.

  17. tchannon says:

    mod: edited article to force image widths compatible with the Talkshop WordPress theme. (remove auto, set fixed width, use auto height, rub with garlic)

  18. gallopingcamel says:

    The UK seems hell bent on “Mitigating CO2 Emissions” in drastic fashion by 2050. Given that CO2 does not drive temperature there will be no measurable effect on the climate.

    All that will be achieved is the ruin of what is left of the UK’s industrial economy, rapidly rising electricity costs and instabilty of the power grid (blackouts and brownouts).

    Far away in sunny Florida I am cheering you on. If you bravely implement the grand plan, the energy disaster that ensues will ensure we won’t be tempted to follow your lead “Back to the Past” when windmills made sense.