Drought, may have helped Britain's industrial revolution
Britain's transition from water power to coal-based steam power set the stage for the 19th century Industrial Revolution, which transformed much of Europe and North America into predominantly urban and industrialized societies. One long-held argument for this move "away from the water" has been that Britain no longer had sufficient water resources to satisfy the increasing power demands of its textile mills.
Now new research to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of The Geological Society of America indicates that the potential stream power of only a few English river basins had been fully tapped by the mid-19th century. Instead, historical precipitation records suggest that low stream flows caused by periodic drought may have played a much more important role in the country's shift toward steam power.