What's The Weather Like On Middle Earth? Scientist Maps Climate in 'Lord Of The Rings'

By Ajit Jha on December 7, 2013 5:55 PM EST

Mordor
Mordor's climate is similar to Los Angeles', one scientist says. (Photo: Cooper's Moon, CC BY 2.0)

While mainstream climate science could be dismissed as fantasy by climate skeptics, they now have a reason to call it fantasy, because a team of researchers has now used a powerful super computer to model the climate of J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional Middle Earth in his Lord of the Rings books.

Dr. Dan Lunt, a researcher at the University of Bristol and an expert on past climate change, reproduced Middle Earth's climate. He effectively "scanned" Tolkien's famously detailed maps into the university's supercomputer. "For a model to work, all you need is a map of where continents are, and how high the mountains are," Lunt told the Guardian. For six days, or roughly 70 years in the model, the super computer at the university crunched the weather patterns of Rohan, Mirkwood, and the rest of Tolkien's world.   

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Lunt's analysis revealed that the climate around Mt. Doom is pretty much comparable to Los Angeles. Mt. Doom is the place where Frodo takes the evil ring of power to be destroyed. Mt. Doom is hot, and the volcanic ash there creates an effect similar to Los Angeles' infamous smog. On the other hand, the peaceful neighborhood Bilbo Baggins and Frodo come from, known as the Shire, is quite like Leicestershire or Lincolnshire in the U.K. Lunt also found that the Shire's climate is like that of Dunedin in New Zealand. Could it then mean that Peter Jackson, the director of the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy chose inappropriate filming locations? "They made a mistake by filming in the north island - they should've filmed in the south island," Lunt said.  

Lunt produced a mock paper on the work, writing under the pen name Radagast - a name of one of Tolkien's wizards. Some of the other findings concerning Middle Earth presented in the paper included the following: The climate of Middle Earth is quite similar to the one found in Western Europe and North America. The climate at Mordor is inhospitable, hot, and dry, with little vegetation. Due to the prevailing winds in that region, ships sailing for the Undying Lands in the West, set off from the Grey Havens. If dragons, orcs, and wizards had not altered the land, a lot of Middle Earth would have been covered in dense forest.

The one major aim of the project undertaken by Lunt appears to highlight the importance of "assessing climate sensitivity in context of the current global warming, and highlight the key role played by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and the responsibility placed on policy makers to act upon the information therein." 

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