The sky is so dark this morning it looks like snow. It will most probably rain though – we don’t get snow much here near Paris. It’s hard to say, actually what will happen. We live on the river and in between Paris and the Normandy region, so we get the edges of two very different weather systems. The coast gets loads of rain or snow, storms whip the edges of Brittany, while the deep valleys and tangled hedgerows keep the wind at bay in Normandy. The weather runs up and down the Seine river valley though, with tall cliffs on either side funnelling the wind. Most of the weather comes from the west here – the west wind is our prevailing wind; which always reminds me of mahjong games. 

Paris gets lots of rain but hardly any snow. Its built on flat land, so the wind that whistled up past our city through the narrow river valley is suddenly calmed and flattened. The Seine loops around so much it acts like a windbreak, I suppose. Cold comes from the north, and the worst of it comes straight from Siberia. In the 14th century until the 19th century, cold weather caused famine and plagues in Europe. Studies link the first “little ice age” to volcano eruptions in 1300 which caused the arctic sea ice to expand and spread cold and wet weather worldwide.

Everyone knows about the great famine and black death, but few know that historians believe that the cold even started the Manchurian invasion, when the peasants could no longer pay their taxes and rose up against their feudal lords, bringing an end to the Ming dynasty, and even the Salem witch hunts. What happened was in 1484, Pope Innocent VIII  blamed witches for the cold temperatures and resulting misfortunes plaguing Europe. His declaration ushered in an era of hysteria, accusations and executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Historians have shown that surges in European witch trials coincided with some of the Little Ice Age’s most bitter phases during the 16th and 17th centuries[1]. As the 18th century drew to a close, two decades of poor weather and skyrocketing bread prices had stirred unrest among peasants and poor in France. The king imposed heavy taxes, yet failed to provide relief. The people reacted by rioting and looting. Anarchists used the people’s discontent to start the French Revolution of 1789, which some historians have connected to the Little Ice Age.[2]

Now we’re back in the present, and Trump has just defunded the studies[3] into global warming. Granted, it’s not n ice age, so the effects are maybe not as spectacular as two years in a row of freezing temperatures killing all the grain – but as the weather changes and the sea levels rise, and storms and droughts occur – do you think Trump will spare a thought to history and what it tells us about climate and revolutions?


[1][2] Little Ice Age, Big Consequences. History in the Headlines. January 31, 2012.

[3] Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’. The Guardian. November 23, 2016.