Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climatic fluctuations in last 2,500 years linked to social upheavals

Date:
January 27, 2011
Source:
Universität Mainz
Summary:
Complete record of the Central European climate of the last 2,500 years reconstructed for the first time. It would seem that there are striking chronological parallels between significant variations of climate and major historical epochs, such as the Migration Period and the heyday of the Middle Ages.

The scientists use specialist drills to extract wood samples from historic buildings in Lötschental, Switzerland. These data help in the reconstruction of our climate of the last 2,500 years.
Credit: Jan Esper

It would seem that there are striking chronological parallels between significant variations of climate and major historical epochs, such as the Migration Period and the heyday of the Middle Ages. This is the conclusion reached following a study undertaken by researchers from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and the USA, in which they were able to reconstruct the summer climate in Europe over the last 2,500 years from the information provided by annual tree rings.

For example, the summers at the times when both the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages were at their zenith were relatively humid and warm. Professor Dr Jan Esper of the Institute of Geography at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), Germany was involved in this interdisciplinary study, the results of which were recently published in the journal Science.

The team, consisting of climatologists and archeologists, managed for the first time to put together a complete history of rainfall and temperature over the past two and a half millennia in Central Europe. In order to do this, they analyzed the annual growth rings of some 9,000 samples of subfossil, archeological-historical and living wood originating from Germany, France, Italy, and Austria. The width of these tree rings was measured using dendrochronological techniques. The results were compared with weather data compiled by Central European meteorological stations in order to collate the findings with actual information on precipitation and temperature variations.

This enabled the scientists to consider major historical events and epochs in the context of the fluctuations of the European summer climate in the period from the late Iron Age 2,500 years ago right up to the 21st century. "During the Roman era, the climate was predominantly humid and warm, and also relatively stable," explains the first author of the publication, Ulf Büntgen of Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape (WSL) in Zurich. The decline of the Western Roman Empire coincided with a period after 250 AD in which it became much colder and climatically changeable. This phase of more marked climatic variation persisted for 300 years, accompanying the age of Migration and the associated socio-economic destabilization. The cultural revival of the early Middle Ages occurred as both temperatures and rainfall began to increase with the dawn of the 7th century. It is also possible that climatic factors may have contributed towards the spread and virulence of the Black Death after 1347. In addition, the new findings suggest that a cold period during the Thirty Years' War in the first half of the 17th century could have exacerbated the contemporary widespread famines.

The publication impressively compares the climate of the 20th century and the changes (partly) attributable to human activity with the natural fluctuations of the past 2,500 years. The summers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries appear to be have been unusually warm when considered against the background of natural temperature variation. On the other hand, there were also periods of very heavy precipitation in the past that, in terms of quantity of rainfall and duration, were more extreme than anything we are witnessing today.

However, the team of authors explicitly draws attention to the complexity of the relationship between climatic change and historical events, and warns of the dangers of drawing overly simplistic conclusions with regard to cause and effect.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universität Mainz. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. U. Buntgen, W. Tegel, K. Nicolussi, M. McCormick, D. Frank, V. Trouet, J. O. Kaplan, F. Herzig, K.-U. Heussner, H. Wanner, J. Luterbacher, J. Esper. 2500 Years of European Climate Variability and Human Susceptibility. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1197175

Cite This Page:

Universität Mainz. "Climatic fluctuations in last 2,500 years linked to social upheavals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110127090455.htm>.
Universität Mainz. (2011, January 27). Climatic fluctuations in last 2,500 years linked to social upheavals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110127090455.htm
Universität Mainz. "Climatic fluctuations in last 2,500 years linked to social upheavals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110127090455.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) — Federal researchers have released new images of the City of Chester, a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888. Researchers recently found the shipwreck while mapping shipping routes. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins