A quick question: How do you picture the historical timeline?

Over at Watts Up With That, there is a post by Juraj Vanovcan, European Climate, Alpine Glaciers and Arctic Ice in relation to North Atlantic SST record

It is a good read and points out what seems like old fashioned common sense (which academic scientists too often seem to leave out of their thinking).

But what I am going to comment on was off-topic there, so I offered to take the discussion here.

Figure 5 is this:

Figure 5: Swiss glacier advance/retreat related to Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (older years are to the right)

That caption got me thinking.  We don’t too often see the timeline with older being to the right – but it happens more in climate than anywhere else I’ve seen.  It is something I’ve thought about before, but never discussed with anyone.

Here is my question/observation:

Sometimes when I picture history as a time line, I view it going left to right, L>R, and sometimes I picture it as R>L.  (e.g., for L>R 1800 is to the left and 2100 is to the right, while it would be opposite for R>L)   I would say the balance is maybe 60% L>R and 40% R>L.

Does this sound strange to anyone?

I will even do this back and forth while thinking of a particular historical event, switching back and forth, literally within seconds.  I won’t say it is a random thing, but it is pretty close to that.  Almost every historical event I picture in my head I see both ways, at different moments/times.

I would also say that for times farther in the past it is more prominently L>R than R>L.  But not always.  For example I tend to think of Mozart and Beethoven’s times as being off to the right, Wagner, too.  It isn’t exactly topic-specific, but may tend that way.  But Isaac Newton and the Royal Society I see toward the left, usually.  FDR I see more to the right, but sometimes to the left.  Einstein is almost – but not always – to the left.


4 responses to “A quick question: How do you picture the historical timeline?

  1. Feet to the Fur….,

    Encultration. English is read L>R. Hebrew R<L as an example. How do the Chinese or Japanese etc. read a timeline? Vertically???

  2. Hi there, I see the timeline L–>R but these data were in opposite direction, when I took them from Swiss Glacier Institute website.

  3. @Juraj –

    I appreciate your responding to this. Yours isn’t the first climate graph I’ve seen that has the past to the right, but I have not seen many. Perhaps five or so.

    I understand their thinking, since they are looking at time TO the past as something that increases. Yet not many seem to present it that way.


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