At the University of Bristol, climate scientist Dan Lunt decided to have a spot of fun. He wondered what the climate would look like in Middle Earth. The result? This report--which Lunt assures us he did for free, in his own time, and which turned the powerful tools of modern climate science on Tolkien's fictional world.
“Because climate models are based on fundamental scientific understanding, they can be applied to many situations,” says Lunt in his report. “They are not designed solely for simulating the climate of the modern Earth, and, in theory, the same underlying science should apply to any time period in the past.”
Any period, sure, but also any place. With that in mind, Lunt turned to an advanced climate model designed by the United Kingdom's Met Office, which he ran using the supercomputers housed at the University of Bristol's Advanced Computing Research Centre.
With the model capable of simulating basic systems, like wind and rainfall patterns, and temperature or plant growth, all that as left was for Lunt to plug in the realm of Middle Earth—the peaks of the Misty Mountains, the rolling hills of the Shire. Unfortunately, with no detailed records of the astronomical procession of Arda, the planet of which Middle Earth is a part, Lunt had to fill in a few blanks, using Earthly values for the behavior of the Sun or the rotation rate of the planet.
Like in the real world, the weather followed familiar patterns, dictated by the shape of the land. Rain falls as air climbs up and over mountains, leaving deserts on the lee side. Colder weather grips the north, while the temperature climbs nearer the equator. “East of the Misty Mountains,” says Lunt, “the temperature decreases the further eastwards one travels. This is because, just as in the European regions of the Earth, the further from the ocean the greater the 'seasonality' – i.e. winters become colder and summers become warmer. But winters cool more than summers warm, and so the annual average temperatures in general decrease away from the ocean.”
With his model-calculated distributions of the rainfall and temperature in hand, Lunt had a question: “Where in Earth is most like a certain place in Middle Earth?”
Statistically comparing Middle Earth to Earth, he says, “eastern Europe has the greatest concentration of Shire-like climate, in particular Belarus.” In the U.K., the most Shire-like places are Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. Then, of course, parts of New Zealand also fit the bill.
There aren't many Shire-like places in the U.S., unfortunately. But there is one place, one region of Middle Earth, that has an American analogue: “Los Angeles and western Texas,” he says, “are notable for being the most Mordor-like regions in the USA.”
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