Historical precipitation central Europe AD 1013-1504
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DARMC Scholarly Data Series: 2012-2:
Geodatabase of Historical Evidence on Precipitation in Central Europe AD 1013-1504
Michael McCormick, Guoping Huang, Kelly Gibson et al. (ed.) Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations
NOTE: Please cite original reference when using this data!Last Updated: 2012
Database Information
Name of Data SetGeodatabase of Historical Evidence on Precipitation in Central Europe AD 1013-1504
ContributorsM. McCormick, with assistance from Rena Lauer, Ece Turnator and Guoping Huang
DARMC Scholarly Data Series Citation:McCormick, M. et al. 2012. "Geodatabase of Historical Evidence on Precipitation in Central Europe AD 1013-1504," DARMC Scholarly Data Series, Data Contribution Series # 2012-2. DARMC, Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138.
Original Reference:Ulf Büntgen, Willy Tegel, Kurt Nicolussi, Michael McCormick, David Frank, Valerie Trouet, Jed O. Kaplan, Franz Herzig, Karl-Uwe Heussner, Heinz Wanner, Jürg Luterbacher, and Jan Esper, '2500 Years of European climate variability and human susceptibility', Science, 331 (13 January 2011, 2011), pp. 578-582. DOI: ***
Climate variations influenced the agricultural productivity, health risk, and conflict level of preindustrial societies. Discrimination between environmental and anthropogenic impacts on past civilizations, however, remains difficult because of the paucity of high-resolution paleoclimatic evidence. We present tree ring–based reconstructions of central European summer precipitation and temperature variability over the past 2500 years. Recent warming is unprecedented, but modern hydroclimatic variations may have at times been exceeded in magnitude and duration. Wet and warm summers occurred during periods of Roman and medieval prosperity. Increased climate variability from ~250 to 600 C.E. coincided with the demise of the western Roman Empire and the turmoil of the Migration Period. Such historical data may provide a basis for counteracting the recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change. The present geodatabase presents the details of the historical records which were used to test the accuracy of the AMJ precipitation record reconstructed from the dendrodata. See Büntgen et al. 2011, 579 and Figure 3A; and Supporting Online Material, 5.
These historical records of precipitation extremes from 1013 to 1504 have been identified from the main collections of medieval climate reports and verified on the original publications in almost all cases.
The main collections of medieval weather reports used here were: Pierre Alexandre, Le climat en Europe au Moyen Age: contribution à l'histoire des variations climatiques de 1000 à 1425, d'après les sources narratives de l'Europe occidentale (Paris: Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1987), 827 p; J. Buisman, and A. F. V. van Engelen, Duizend jaar weer, wind en water in de Lage Landen, vols. 1-3 (Franeker: Van Wijnen, 1995-1998); Curt Weikinn, Quellentexte zur Witterungsgeschichte Europas von der Zeitwende bis zum Jahre 1850. 4 vols. Vol. 1, Quellensammlung zur Hydrographie und Meteorologie (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1958).
I am grateful for research assistance from Rena Lauer and Ece Gulsum Turnator. Guoping Huang transformed the Excel spreadsheet into the geodatabase displayed in the Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations: http://darmc.harvard.edu/