University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt, writing under the name Radagast the Brown, released a paper today where he used powerful supercomputers to model the climate of Middle Earth. So of course he had to release it in Dwarvish, Elvish and English. He made some fascinating scientific observations, too.
Lunt, who works in the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute, used the same kinds of climate modeling software used by scientists who contribute to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. This software harnesses the powers of supercomputers to extrapolate about future climate changes, based on millions of years of data from Earth's past.
For Middle Earth, Lunt chose to model the mythical land by extrapolating from a map of the topography and batheymetry of Arda's northern hemisphere during the Second Age (Middle Earth is part of Arda). He notes that this map came from Rivendell records, and that he had little data on the Third Age when Lord of the Rings takes place, so he assumed that the climates of the Second Age and Third Age were similar. He then assigned heights to the mountains, as well as depths to the oceans, and used those to calculate what the likely winds, ground cover, and temperatures would be.
As you can see in the image at the top of this post, Lunt compared Middle Earth to today's world as well as the Late Cretaceous, 100-66 million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the planet.
According to Ian Randall, writing at Science:
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 topic is fanciful, and Lunt did the calculations in his spare time. Neverheless, as Lunt said in a release, it may help people understand how climate modeling software works:
This work is a bit of fun, but it does have a serious side. A core part of our work here in Bristol involves using state-of-the-art climate models to simulate and understand the past climate of our Earth. By comparing our results to evidence of past climate change, for example from tree rings, ice cores, and ancient fossils of plants and animals, we can validate the climate models, and gain confidence in the accuracy of their predictions of future climate.
Normally, of course, we would have maps of our Earth, rather than Middle Earth. But the process would be the same. Scientists would compare today's climate to a previous era (like the Cretaceous) to see what has changed and why. The software Lunt works with can help us puzzle out the relationships between inputs and outputs in the great machine we call Earth. The better we understand the environmental inputs (like carbon) that result in outputs of, say, higher temperatures and more acidic oceans, the better able we'll be to prevent unwanted climate changes in the future.
Lunt's colleague, environmental scientist Richard Pancot said:
Because climate models are based on fundamental scientific processes, they are able not only to simulate the climate of the modern Earth, but can also be easily adapted to simulate any planet, real or imagined, so long as the underlying continental positions and heights, and ocean depths are known.
And that's exactly what Lunt has done here.
UPDATE: Readers have discovered that these papers are not in actual Elvish or Dwarvish, but instead in silly fonts designed to look like those languages. We are a little disappointed.