Hobbits would feel at home in Dunedin - climate scientist

Tolkien-obsessed New Zealand fans will be pleased to learn they don't have to travel too far to experience the kind of weather inhabitants of Hobbiton would enjoy.

Dunedin's climate has been found to match that of the famous Shire in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books.

Not such good news for the Australians, however, as the hot and dry conditions of Alice Springs were deemed similar to that of Mordor, where evil overlord Sauron dwells, according to a UK climate scientist who has developed a weather model of Middle Earth.

Dr Dan Lunt, a climate lecturer at Bristol University, created the simulation by feeding detailed maps of the fictional country drawn up by author JRR Tolkien into the university's supercomputer.

Penned under the name The Wizard Radagast the Brown, the paper is littered with Tolkien references, and is also available in elvish and dwarvish languages.

He found Dunedin was among the places with a weather pattern most like the beloved Shire hobbits Bilbo and Frodo Baggins leave behind on their adventures.

"[It] might be considered the ideal location to film a motion picture based in the Shire..." the paper notes.

Speaking from his home in the UK, Dr Lunt, 37, said director Sir Peter Jackson may have got his locations wrong while filming his LOTR and Hobbit trilogies.

"Obviously the films have been filmed in New Zealand, and we found that was quite appropriate," he said. "Although I gathered that probably a lot was filmed in the North Island, in particular the bits that were supposed to be where the hobbits live, like The Shire, but according to our model they would have been much better to film it in the South Island."

The model found the easterly winds in the north of Middle Earth "may explain why ships sailing to the Undying lands to the West tended to set sail from the Grey Havens".

And, similar to our own earth, its population has been responsible for deforestation.

"Much of Middle Earth would have been covered in dense forest if the landscape had not been altered by dragons, orcs, wizards etc," it claims.

He noted "this is consistent with reports I have heard from Elrond that squirrels could once travel from the region of the Shire all the way to Isengard".

Dr Lunt said his main motivation was to create a "fun and interesting" way to engage people in discussions about climate.

"The Lord of the Rings and The hobbit are very popular, there's a huge community of people out there of people who are really interested in the books and the films, and it was a way of trying to grab the attention of those sorts of people and in some ways to communicate to them about climate science," he said.

"We thought some of them might actually read the article that we wrote where we talk about the future climate of the earth and how we predict it, the strengths and weaknesses, that sort of thing, and also to inform them about how you can use past climate change to understand the future."

The paper had received "quite a lot of interest" in the British media and social media, he said, but added: "No-one's complained that I've got anything wrong yet, which is what I thought might happen. Maybe that will happen tomorrow."

Meanwhile, the largest private collection of Lord of the Rings film memorabilia went under the hammer in Los Angeles this weekend. It saw punters bidding more than $US100,000 over the asking price for the battle axe used by John Rhys-Davies' Gimli the Dwarf. It sold for $US180,000 ($NZ217,293).

Frodo's sword Sting sold for $US156,000 ($188,307), around $US36,000 over the estimate, while the sword used by Viggo Mortensen's character Aragorn sold for $US62,500 ($75,470).

• The paper can be found here

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ


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