You've hereditary Lords with reasonably long time horizons, at least for the major houses. If winter is of variable duration with a fat right tail to the distribution, and winter occurs after long and variable lags, and the duration of winter is proportionate to the time since the last winter, you'd expect a few things.
Suppose that you expect a year of winter for every year of summer. You'd then be wanting to put away half your crop, every year, for the coming year if food preservation is perfect. In Season 1, it had been about
Now, relax the perfect food preservation assumption. In that case, there will be some maximum storage capacity beyond which any further storage is pointless. But in that world, nobody's eating fresh meat: you're eating salted preserved meats, canned fruits, and pickled vegetables coming out of storage because they're hitting their use-by date and replacing the larder with fresh.
Now, maybe summer game and produce is just so plentiful relative to population that we can just throw out anything hitting it's use-by date and replace with fresh without affecting current consumption. But we'd still expect to see lots of smokehouses and storehouses. And, we'd especially expect to see it up near The Wall.
So, why might we not see tons of storehouses?
Maybe everybody migrates south when winter comes. But that's inconsistent with the nursemaid's story about mothers smothering their infants to keep them from starving in the last long winter. And, we'd then expect to see some storehouses in the South for the periodic influx of winter-refugees.
Maybe storage is too risky: if the King can't credibly commit not to predate on the Lords' stores come winter, they won't store food. But that seems nonsensical: the King would then just tax the Lords' current production and run the storage himself.
Or, maybe civil wars are almost certain to happen in any long summer period and burning the storehouses is too common a strategy to make storage worthwhile. You can imagine conventions against this, like conventions against killing Red Cross workers, but any Lord expecting to be on the losing side likely expects to die anyway so there's no margin in not burning the other side's stores. But wouldn't we then still expect big storehouses inside King's Landing? At least some Kings would care enough about his legacy not to burn the storehouses if civil war threatened; moreover, a King who's knifed in the back by his guardsman doesn't get a chance to burn the storehouse.
Or, maybe folks there just have short memories, short time horizons, or really don't want to think about winter. That's consistent with the diminution of the Night's Watch at Castle Black. But it's not a very satisfying explanation. And, it's not consistent with long time horizons evident in investments in maintaining the honour of the various houses. You can say those are often private goods problems and both the Night Watch and storehouses would be more of a public goods problem given opportunities for predation on storehouses come the winter, but the King's there to solve those kinds of public goods problems. Even if the last King was a drunk and a wastrel, we'd at least see evidence of empty and abandoned storehouses from prior monarchs.
Dixit gave us an excellent analysis of Elaine's optimal sponge-use path in Seinfeld; maybe we can convince him to do this one up more formally too. Or maybe it could be an honours project in a future year. Characterise the optimal crop savings rate given different distributional assumptions on the duration of winter and of the gaps between winters and given different parameters on storage depreciation.
*Update: James Butler finds me the geek resources I needed. But I'm still having problems parsing this.
Ok, so do we then have a winter starting at the end of 228 and running through past the false spring of 281? Or starting in 254? Why do we have Winter followed by a 3-year winter? If Maekar's summer led to a short autumn, 228-254 is not autumn. I need a GoT geek.
Seasons and climateWesteros's climate shifts from arid and dry desert climate in the furthest south to cold and harsh Winters in the north and icy wasteland in the lands of Always Winter in the furthest north.Westeros and Essos both experience extremely long seasons of varying length, usually lasting at least a couple of years each. The maesters try to predict the length of the seasons, monitoring the temperature and days length, to advise on when to plant and when to harvest and how much food to store. However, given the random nature of the seasons, this is not something that can be relied on.At the beginning of A Game of Thrones the continent has enjoyed an unusually long decade-long summer of peace and plenty and many fear that an equally long and harsh winter will follow. The winter comes at the outset of A Feast for Crows, with the arrival of the White Ravens from the citadel.It’s noted that winter means that the days grow shorter. It’s not simply that the weather becomes really cold or really warm, but it was explicitly stated by George R. R. Martin and more than once stated that the explanation of the Planet's climate is magical in nature and will be revealed at the end of the series.
- Latest Recorded Seasons
- 209AL - Spring (The Great Spring Sickness), following the plague came a two year drought.
- 211AL - Summer
- 221-228 AL - Maekar's summer, broke suddenly and led to a short autumn and a terrible long winter.
- 254AL - Winter
- 273AL - Three year winter.
- 281AL - the Year of the False Spring.
- 288-298 AL - the long summer.
- 301AL - Winter start.