Climate affects all living organisms and so has always, and always will have, an influence on human affairs. The awareness of the importance of climate is apparent in all peoples from the most primitive, where it is cloaked with magic and ritual, to the scientific aura surrounding the weather prophets of the more advanced. One of the main achievements of material civilization has been to insulate mankind from some of the worst effects of climatic variation and engender a feeling, however false, of independence.
It was only natural, therefore, when geology revealed the vast expanse of time, and unearthed bizarre animal forms, and a vastly different geography, to speculate on the climatic conditions of those ages. The harnessing of this intellectual curiosity to detailed observation and investigation has produced the sciences of palaeogeography and palaeoclimatology.
The climates of the past, because of their great general interest, have suffered more than most sciences from preconceived ideas, and the tendency to be used as an adjunct to other work. The biggest steps forward were the recognition that current climate cannot be regarded as 'normal', and the need to consider geographical position as a possible variable. The latter possibility is the centre of the geological controversy over Continental Drift. It is therefore difficult to strike a balance between the amount to which climatic variation can be attributed to latitudinal variation, and to actual climatic fluctuation due primarily to variations in the earth's heat budget.
In this volume, the pooled knowledge of many scientists has gone into the probing of the generally accepted evidence of climate, with results which show the need for caution. These follow a series of outline essays on the climatic histories of large areas. The paucity of information from many parts of the world as well as the size of the areas involved precludes any more detailed examination and prevents any rigid conclusions being drawn.
In assembling this symposium, it is a pleasant duty to acknowledge the full and friendly co-operation given by all the authors, the publishers and Dr. P. Rosbaud, with especial thanks to Mrs. A. Hide for her careful translations of Chapters X and XI. The help and interest of Professor S. K Runcorn in the preparation of this volume is also gratefully acknowledged. Faults there must inevitably be, and for such shortcomings the editor accepts full responsibility. Permission to reproduce various figures, freely granted by the Controller H.M.S.O. (Ch. II, Figs. 1, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12), by Dr. C. Emiliani (Ch. VII, Figs. I and 2), by the Council of the Geological Society of London (Ch. XIII, Figs. 1, 2, 3 and 4) and by Professor Axelrod (Ch. XI, Fig. 6), is gratefully acknowledged.
A. E. M. NAIRN
King's College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.