Climate Scientists Figured Out Why Winter Is So Long on 'Game of Thrones'


When Game of Thrones began, “winter is coming” was just a folksy phrase uttered by the House of Stark. But now, with season seven over, it’s more like “Oh shit, it really is winter!” With snow zombies marching in from the north and snowflakes settling the typically temperate Kings Landing, the weather in Westeros is officially bananas. And on Tuesday, scientists announced they’ve found the reason for the global climate chaos — and it’s not all prophecy.

In a statement, researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Southampton announced that they’ve created that a climate model that can explain the bizarre winter in Game of Thrones as well as provide some real-world parallels to the fantasy world.

In a paper the team “published” in the mock journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of King’s Landing: Volume 1, Issue 1, the scientists also claim that the lead author of the study is Samwell Tarly — which we know can’t be true because he’s too busy watching Bran’s fever dream while incest hookups play in the background.

“In this paper I explore more closely the climate world of Game of Thrones, focusing on the orbital theory,” writes “Tarly.” “To do this, I make use of a ‘Climate Model’ that was installed on a computing machine that I found in the cellars of the Citadel (luckily I learned how to code when I was back in Horn Hill avoiding sword practice).”

“Furthermore, I make some comparisons with a fictional planet called the ‘real’ Earth, whose climate is described in detail in manuscripts that Gilly discovered in the Citadel library.”

The world of "Game of Thrones" showing the positions of the continents over the globe.

Dan Lunt, University of Bristol 

The climate model, designed to simulate weather and climate while following the fundamental rules of fluid mechanics, incorporates the Game of Thrones countries onto our globe. It also takes into account the Earth’s radius, rotation rate, incoming sunlight, and the rate of orbit around the Sun. With all that data plugged in, the researchers tasked the model with demonstrating what would happen in 100 years.

They discovered that the fictional world’s long winters and long summers could be explained by a “tumbling” of the tilt of the spinning axis of the planet as it orbits the sun because it forces one Hemisphere to always tilt toward the Sun.

The model also showed a way to defeat the steadily growing winter: global warming. If concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were to double in the fictional world, there would be an overall temperature increase of 2.1 °C.

Surface air temperature predicted by the climate model for winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Dan Lunt, University of Bristol

“Because climate models are based on fundamental scientific processes, they are able to not only to simulate the climate of the modern Earth, but can also be easily adapted to simulate any planet, real or imagined, so long as the underlying continental positions and heights, and ocean depths are known,” said Dan Lunt, Ph.D., a real-life study co-author and University of Bristol professor of climate science said in a statement on Tuesday.

While Lunt and his team’s model involves quite a bit of guesswork, they were also able to pull out some fun facts from the model: Wherever the Wall and the White Walkers are, the winter climate is most similar to that of Lapland, Finland. Meanwhile, Casterly Rock, the stronghold of the Lannisters, has a climate more similar to Houston, Texas or Changsha, China.

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