Climatic Change

, Volume 125, Issue 3, pp 349–363

The year-long unprecedented European heat and drought of 1540 – a worst case

  • Oliver Wetter
  • Christian Pfister
  • Johannes P. Werner
  • Eduardo Zorita
  • Sebastian Wagner
  • Sonia I. Seneviratne
  • Jürgen Herget
  • Uwe Grünewald
  • Jürg Luterbacher
  • Maria-Joao Alcoforado
  • Mariano Barriendos
  • Ursula Bieber
  • Rudolf Brázdil
  • Karl H. Burmeister
  • Chantal Camenisch
  • Antonio Contino
  • Petr Dobrovolný
  • Rüdiger Glaser
  • Iso Himmelsbach
  • Andrea Kiss
  • Oldřich Kotyza
  • Thomas Labbé
  • Danuta Limanówka
  • Laurent Litzenburger
  • Øyvind Nordl
  • Kathleen Pribyl
  • Dag Retsö
  • Dirk Riemann
  • Christian Rohr
  • Werner Siegfried
  • Johan Söderberg
  • Jean-Laurent Spring
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-014-1184-2

Cite this article as:
Wetter, O., Pfister, C., Werner, J.P. et al. Climatic Change (2014) 125: 349. doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1184-2

Abstract

The heat waves of 2003 in Western Europe and 2010 in Russia, commonly labelled as rare climatic anomalies outside of previous experience, are often taken as harbingers of more frequent extremes in the global warming-influenced future. However, a recent reconstruction of spring–summer temperatures for WE resulted in the likelihood of significantly higher temperatures in 1540. In order to check the plausibility of this result we investigated the severity of the 1540 drought by putting forward the argument of the known soil desiccation-temperature feedback. Based on more than 300 first-hand documentary weather report sources originating from an area of 2 to 3 million km2, we show that Europe was affected by an unprecedented 11-month-long Megadrought. The estimated number of precipitation days and precipitation amount for Central and Western Europe in 1540 is significantly lower than the 100-year minima of the instrumental measurement period for spring, summer and autumn. This result is supported by independent documentary evidence about extremely low river flows and Europe-wide wild-, forest- and settlement fires. We found that an event of this severity cannot be simulated by state-of-the-art climate models.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1184_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.3 mb)
ESM 1(PDF 1302 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Wetter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christian Pfister
    • 1
  • Johannes P. Werner
    • 3
  • Eduardo Zorita
    • 4
  • Sebastian Wagner
    • 4
  • Sonia I. Seneviratne
    • 5
  • Jürgen Herget
    • 6
  • Uwe Grünewald
    • 7
  • Jürg Luterbacher
    • 3
  • Maria-Joao Alcoforado
    • 8
  • Mariano Barriendos
    • 9
    • 10
  • Ursula Bieber
    • 11
  • Rudolf Brázdil
    • 12
    • 13
  • Karl H. Burmeister
    • 14
  • Chantal Camenisch
    • 1
    • 2
  • Antonio Contino
    • 15
  • Petr Dobrovolný
    • 12
    • 13
  • Rüdiger Glaser
    • 16
  • Iso Himmelsbach
    • 16
  • Andrea Kiss
    • 17
  • Oldřich Kotyza
    • 18
  • Thomas Labbé
    • 19
  • Danuta Limanówka
    • 20
  • Laurent Litzenburger
    • 21
  • Øyvind Nordl
    • 22
  • Kathleen Pribyl
    • 23
  • Dag Retsö
    • 24
  • Dirk Riemann
    • 16
  • Christian Rohr
    • 1
    • 2
  • Werner Siegfried
    • 25
  • Johan Söderberg
    • 24
  • Jean-Laurent Spring
    • 26
  1. 1.Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of History, Section of Economic, Social and Environmental History (WSU)University of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Geography; Climatology, Climate Dynamics and Climate ChangeJustus Liebig University of GiessenGiessenSwitzerland
  4. 4.Institute of Coastal ResearchHelmholtz Centre GeesthachtGeesthachtGermany
  5. 5.Institute for Atmospheric and Climate ScienceETH Zurich, CHN N11ZurichSwitzerland
  6. 6.Department of GeographyRheinische Friedrich Wilhelms UniversityBonnGermany
  7. 7.Chair Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Process EngineeringBrandenburg University of Technology Cottbus – SenftenbergCottbusSwitzerland
  8. 8.Centre of Geographical Studies, Institute of Geography and PlanningUniversity of Lisbon, Edifício da Fac. de LetrasLisboaPortugal
  9. 9.Catalan Institute for Climate Sciences (IC3)BarcelonaSpain
  10. 10.Department of Modern HistoryUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  11. 11.Department of Slavonic Studies and Interdisciplinary Centre of Medieval StudiesUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  12. 12.Institute of GeographyMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  13. 13.Global Change Research Centre AS CRBrnoCzech Republic
  14. 14.Hoyerberg, Am Staeuben 18HoyerbergBodolzGermany
  15. 15.Department of Earth and Sea Sciences (DiSTeM)University of PalermoPalermoItaly
  16. 16.Department of Environmental Social Studies and Geography - Physical GeographyAlbert-Ludwigs University Freiburg i.Br.FreiburgGermany
  17. 17.Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources ManagementVienna University of TechnologyViennaAustria
  18. 18.Regional MuseumLitoměřiceCzech Republic
  19. 19.Institute of HistoryTechnische Universität (TU) of DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany
  20. 20.Institute of Meteorology and Water Management National Research Institute (IMGW-PIB)Center for Poland’s Climate MonitoringWarsawPoland
  21. 21.Lorraine University Center for Historical Research (CRULH)University of Lorraine, Campus Lettres et Sciences HumainesNancy CedexFrance
  22. 22.Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Research and Development DepartmentDivision for Model and Climate AnalysisBlindernNorway
  23. 23.Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East Anglia, Norwich Research ParkNorwichUnited Kingdom
  24. 24.Department of Economic HistoryStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  25. 25.Agroscope Research Station ACWExtension WineWädenswilSwitzerland
  26. 26.Station de recherche Agroscope à PullyPullySwitzerland