How Weather Has Changed World History: Climate Change Impact

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2784 |

Pages: 6|

14 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 2784|Pages: 6|14 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Weather Impact on Human Development
  3. Role of Weather in World History
  4. Historical Significance of Climate Change
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


To what extent have meteorological circumstances changed and shaped human development? When we think of history, we think of major developments. The founding of great nations, the disasters of nuclear weaponry, and previous ancient civilizations that shaped life to become the way it is now. From a young age, we have been engrained with the idea that these large historical instances were based on the people directly involved, and hardly any outside instances. Repetitively, we have been told about the bravery, the wit, and the ideas that have come from those before us. We aim to shape ourselves in their image, to become better than them, to change the future. Yet, how often do we educate ourselves on the external conditions of those fateful days? While certain individuals do deserve our admiration for their natural talents, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of their success due to the very weather conditions we so offhandedly devalue on a day to day basis. On the other hand, the weather has also taken part in ruining communities and, in some cases, even managed to eradicate entire fragments of history. From determining the outcome of life-changing battles, to completely changing life-altering military plans, weather has, without a doubt, played a large part in some of the most important historical moments and how weather has changed world history.

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Weather Impact on Human Development

The extinction of entire ecosystems occurred due to the sudden lethal change in weather. How? The comet that caused the erasure of the dinosaurs, was so impactful due to the sudden climate change that occurred during the collision. However, it is important to note that without these weather changes, humans would never have existed. With the shifting of the climate throughout billions of years aiding human evolution, modern homosapiens now freely roam the earth. These large instances aren’t the only times meteorological conditions have aided the human developments, in fact, some of the most popular historical moments have occurred due to common weather changes. From common fog and other cloudy conditions suddenly settling into a concealing veil, to theories about droughts that had the ability to wipe entire civilizations from the face of the Earth, weather has in the past and will in the future, continue to majorly impact development in all aspects of our life.

Role of Weather in World History

During the Battle of Long Island in 1776; one of the largest secondary battles that occurred during the American Revolution, the British had abandoned Boston and set their sights on New York instead. With an army that grossly outmanned the Continental (American) armies- about 32,000 to 19,000- the British made their way to Staten Island. Washington, in turn, took his men to defend Brooklyn, moving across the East River. On August of 1776, the British attacked on three separate fronts. Two of the groups took the Continental army head on, while one remaining sneaked through a scarcely known passageway. This unexpected group of about 10,000 British men, took the American army by surprise, and managed to eliminate the majority of them. Among the few that survived was Washington. A small group of American soldiers from Maryland aided those who survived in New York, and prevented a complete takeover by the British. While those who survived managed to retreat momentarily, the British commander- William Howe, commanded his men to dig trenches around the Continental army, rather than press the attack. His lack of impulse and his solid belief that the British ships would cut off American escape, proved to be his biggest mistake. The ships were never there, due to a sudden lack of wind to propel the ships forward.

However, with a lack of communication, Howe had no way of knowing this information. Going back to the initial route of the East River, Washington had to find a way to escape himself and his 9000 men. Using the cover of the night, he managed to send men through his own ships back to safety. However as the night gave away to the day, the British had advanced to the dock, and without the protection of the night, Washington and many leftover soldiers were exposed. The weather has a different plan; a thick, heavy fog settled over the surrounding area. This fog completely covered the Continental army from view, and without the necessary technologies to see clearly, the British army were left dumbfounded when the fog lifted and they saw that Washington and the rest of his 9000 men had escaped. Though this left New York available for capture during September of 1776, the Americans would go on to eventually stand victorious against the British. With the lack of wind to propel British boatmen; the fortunate presence of extra soldiers, and a disillusioning fog, the Americans eventually came to prosper with the victory of the American Revolution.

While the creation of the Americas led to the creation of an entirely new society with technological advancements, that went on to become one of the most powerful nations in the world, the weather is not always so gracious. The same atmosphere that allows us to live and survive, is the same atmosphere that can also ruthlessly take away those same blessings and bring upon climatic devastation.The Mayan empire was great, bringing with them new advancements in linguistics, mathematics, architecture, astronomical reading systems, and even credited with the most popular historical version of the calendar. So how did such an intelligent and technologically advanced community vanish? Well, one theory by American archeologist Richardson Gill argues that, the empire died out due to a 200 year long drought that affected Central America. The Mayan, just like all other living species, required food and water for sustenance. When the drought hit; eliminated all of their crops, and cut off their water supply, the once great empire, had been brought to its knees.

Gill’s research is of course a theory, a rather intriguing one, but still a theory. Many historians are still on the fence about the thesis, claiming that for the Mayans to actually be wiped out, cultural factors had to take a part. Suggesting that war, trade, or rebellion had to be a root cause. These historians believe that we, as products of climate change and evolution, have the ability to adapt to these kinds of shifts. The Mayan civilization, which peaked around 700 A.D, have been theorized to have been hit by the drought around 800 to 950 A.D. Markers of a dry spell have been found by researchers near the Southern Maya lowlands in comparison to the North. The Southern lowlands were the central area for the Maya population, and by taking the brunt of the impact with limited ability for adaptation, severely eliminated much of their resources and life. The North, having already be the dryer of the two, was shown to have signs of a migration, insinuating that those who survived in the South came up to the North. Leading the research is Pagani, a Yale institute professor and director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute. According to his groundwork and evidence to match, the Maya did show an ability to adapt to some extent. They changed their way of agricultural harvesting, momentarily allowing their population to grow. However, it is believed through a collection of isotopes, the drought proved to have ravaged more than what could be sustained. With resources dwindling quicker than being created, we can infer that the sudden drought changing the entire way of life for the Mayans, was their ultimate downfall.

Historical Significance of Climate Change

If the world has been so vulnerable in the past, then our obvious overuse of the world’s resources are leading to a decline in the future. These declines come in a variety of forms, all have an increasing chance as humans continue to wreak havoc on the planet at an alarming rate. As the ones who overzealously burn fossil fuels and deforest; clearing out necessary carbon dioxide filtering plants and sending harmful heat trapping gases into the crumbling atmosphere, for personal intent, we can definitively say that humans are the principal causes of climate change. Through simple chemistry, measuring CO2, monitoring climate trends, and a general consensus among scientists, humans are without a doubt vastly increasing the rate at which the earth decays. These climate changes impact every aspect of our lives, whether directly or indirectly. From limiting food supplies, to eradicating entire species, causes major fluctuations in the food chains. In some places where rainfall is a prominent factor in growth, will see a slow decrease in annual rainfall. However in other places with naturally low rainfall, the rain will increase, overwatering and damaging crops and the very land that lays there. Additionally, flooding and droughts will become more commonplace, slowly changing and eroding our resources, and with these impacts becoming more apparent, the ability of the Earth to adapt to these changes will diminish. Humans are not the first to impact the Earth of course, “climate drivers”, such as global warming have altered the Earth since the beginning of time, and allowed humans to eventually develop and sustain life.

However, these have been necessary and natural, going with the Earth’s natural flow to adapt and change by itself as time increases. Scientists have deciphered that one of the main causes of global warming is the human impact of putting too much carbon in the atmosphere and reducing and harming resources used to filter the carbon. With the presence of the ever growing demands and ease of accessibility, factors such as extracting and burning coal, oil, gas, and even logging, have become a dangerous commonplace. Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, has been proven to be the main heat trapping gas that is largely responsible for international warming over the past decades. The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased dramatically, from a pre-industrial era (AD 1000 – 1750) concentration of approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) to today's 400 ppm, with the highest possible limit being at 400 ppm. The PPM (parts per million) is the number of units of mass of a contaminant per million units of total mass. Meaning the CO2 concentration of the world today is higher than the top limit for CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, In 2012 to Arctic reached levels above 400 ppm followed by Hawaii in 2013. In March of 2015, the global average had reached the peak, and without proper changes to the way the world functions, we reached a speculated point of no return in September of 2016. CO2 concentrations were said to be unlikely to below 400 ppm again, for the remainder of our lives. Unless some serious restrictions and changed were placed on the human population as a whole, which is most likely to not happen, there is already too much dependence on the availability of these resources.

These expansions of CO2 concentrations above the limit, will and has begun to cause serious malfunction in the Earth’s natural systems. Every year after 1977 has been documented to have been warmer than the 20th century average, with 16 of the 17 warmest years in recorded history, occurring since 2001. In recent history, 2016 was recorded to be among the hottest years on record. Scientists have deduced that without emissions from burning contributors to greenhouse gases, 13 out of the 15 warmest years, would not have occurred. There would have naturally been fluctuations as there was time progression, but not a consistent exponential heat growth. Heat waves and cold spells are just some of the major symptoms of climate change, bringing on related mortality rates and economic impacts. Extreme temperatures, both heat and cold waves, are causing an increase in mortality rates as humans struggle to adapt to rapidly shifting weather conditions. Heat waves prove to be a fatal anomaly, and only seem to be increasing their death rates as time continues. In the 1970s, deaths related to heat waves was around 800 people. However the rate is now up by 50 times as much, with the time in between 2000 to 2006 only, resulting in around 52,000 deaths. Cold waves are not such a large mortality factor as heat, yet are still very prevalent. Cold waves have increased by a factor of 20 in the last 35 years from around 300 deaths reported in the 1970s, to 7000 from 2000 to 2006. The damage resulting from these weather extremes can also often include agricultural products and livestock, causing an instability with food and water, bankruptcy with the agricultural economy, and insufficient natural supplies that are harvested from these areas.

Most farmers have the ability to adapt their supplies according to changes in weather, but have a general knowledge of the weather in that area. When the conditions of that area are drastically altered, many of the farmers cannot adapt and are forced to suffer catastrophic setbacks from their only life source. Cold spells bring on unexpected snow, ice, frost, and extremely low temperatures. This, combined with a multitude of other facts, seriously impact human and livestock health and ability to properly function. This impact on human health brings on a new set of issues; diseases. With changes in the atmosphere, water, food, air quality, agriculture, and general livelihood; these meteorological conditions can directly or indirectly bring an onslaught of health imposing factors. Including disease, disability, and death. With climate change, there are new possibilities of harmful developments. Including immediate effects on mortality with extreme temperatures, increase in distribution of disease vectors, changes in the level of pollutants and the apparentness of their presence in the environment, sea level increases and flooding, and a definite effect on biodiversity levels which in turn, impacts humans who directly use these resources.

Developing populations have a higher chance of vulnerability to climate change and have less of an ability to overcome and adapt to these changes. Those who live in nations who have a higher stability rate within their economy and are powers capable of implementing initiatives to assist our planet, have a responsibility to increase development and share power with unstable nations. Without placing superiority complexes in the backseat, it is impossible to create any significant or lasting affect in terms of climate change and environmental damage. It is our responsibility to own up to the many damaging practices we partake in for the sake of accessibility. Aerosols clog up the environment and contain ozone layer depleting chemicals. Fossil fuels are among the most common and the most dangerous; practically suffocating the planet and causing rapid heating. On a hot summer day, we complain that it is grotesquely hot, yet turn a blind eye to the unnecessary eradication of CO2 consuming flora have left the carbon in the atmosphere to have no choice but to damage very layers that protect our planet from drastically overheating and undoubtedly ending the human population.

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In the past, we have witnessed both accounts of weather that has aided wit essentially changed our lives for the better, and also as to how weather has a unique unpredictability. Humans of course stand no chance against the severity of the meteorological impacts, which has been shown to us throughout history again and again. Through eradications of entire species to light fogs that conceal the keys to unlocking entire nations. Weather has played a crucial part to every aspect of our life, and it is our responsibility to protect the very atmosphere that allows us to exist. Scientists had already deduced that we, as humans, had already passed the threshold of safe carbon levels in the atmosphere, with a very limited chance that we would significantly drop below again. It is within our power to address this issue, yet even with countless scientific research composited on this very topic, we are reluctant to end the very way of life that will inevitably cause the extermination of humans, alongside the planet in its entirety. Our scientists have given us a set amount of time, 11 years, to make a difference. Or else this decline that is already wreaking havoc on our world, will be utterly set in stone. Without adhering to aggressive measures to reduce carbon emissions and a complete change of our way of life by adopting green initiatives and technologies, our entire environment is set to crumble. With an expiration date set on our very existence, it is our responsibility to restore the world to a proper equilibrium.    


  1. Gill, R. B. (2000). The Great Maya Droughts: Water, Life, and Death. University of New Mexico Press.
  2. Pagani, M., Pedentchouk, N., Huber, M., Sluijs, A., Schouten, S., Brinkhuis, H., ... & Sinninghe Damsté, J. S. (2006). Arctic hydrology during global warming at the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum. Nature, 442(7103), 671-675.
  3. Seymour, G. D. (1995). The forgotten battle of Long Island, 1776. Rizzoli.
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How Weather Has Changed World History: Climate Change Impact. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
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