Climatic Change

, Volume 125, Issue 3, pp 349–363

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

Authors

    • Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of Bern
    • Institute of History, Section of Economic, Social and Environmental History (WSU)University of Bern
    • Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of Bern
    • Department of Geography; Climatology, Climate Dynamics and Climate ChangeJustus Liebig University of Giessen
  • Eduardo Zorita
    • Institute of Coastal ResearchHelmholtz Centre Geesthacht
  • Sebastian Wagner
    • Institute of Coastal ResearchHelmholtz Centre Geesthacht
  • Sonia I. Seneviratne
    • Institute for Atmospheric and Climate ScienceETH Zurich, CHN N11
  • Jürgen Herget
    • Department of GeographyRheinische Friedrich Wilhelms University
  • Uwe Grünewald
    • Chair Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Process EngineeringBrandenburg University of Technology Cottbus – Senftenberg
  • Jürg Luterbacher
    • Department of Geography; Climatology, Climate Dynamics and Climate ChangeJustus Liebig University of Giessen
  • Maria-Joao Alcoforado
    • Centre of Geographical Studies, Institute of Geography and PlanningUniversity of Lisbon, Edifício da Fac. de Letras
  • Mariano Barriendos
    • Catalan Institute for Climate Sciences (IC3)
    • Department of Modern HistoryUniversity of Barcelona
  • Ursula Bieber
    • Department of Slavonic Studies and Interdisciplinary Centre of Medieval StudiesUniversity of Salzburg
  • Rudolf Brázdil
    • Institute of GeographyMasaryk University
    • Global Change Research Centre AS CR
  • Karl H. Burmeister
    • Hoyerberg, Am Staeuben 18Hoyerberg
  • Chantal Camenisch
    • Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of Bern
    • Institute of History, Section of Economic, Social and Environmental History (WSU)University of Bern
  • Antonio Contino
    • Department of Earth and Sea Sciences (DiSTeM)University of Palermo
  • Petr Dobrovolný
    • Institute of GeographyMasaryk University
    • Global Change Research Centre AS CR
  • Rüdiger Glaser
    • Department of Environmental Social Studies and Geography - Physical GeographyAlbert-Ludwigs University Freiburg i.Br.
  • Iso Himmelsbach
    • Department of Environmental Social Studies and Geography - Physical GeographyAlbert-Ludwigs University Freiburg i.Br.
  • Andrea Kiss
    • Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources ManagementVienna University of Technology
  • Oldřich Kotyza
    • Regional Museum
  • Thomas Labbé
    • Institute of HistoryTechnische Universität (TU) of Darmstadt
  • Danuta Limanówka
    • Institute of Meteorology and Water Management National Research Institute (IMGW-PIB)Center for Poland’s Climate Monitoring
  • Laurent Litzenburger
    • Lorraine University Center for Historical Research (CRULH)University of Lorraine, Campus Lettres et Sciences Humaines
  • Øyvind Nordl
    • Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Research and Development DepartmentDivision for Model and Climate Analysis
  • Kathleen Pribyl
    • Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park
  • Dag Retsö
    • Department of Economic HistoryStockholm University
  • Dirk Riemann
    • Department of Environmental Social Studies and Geography - Physical GeographyAlbert-Ludwigs University Freiburg i.Br.
  • Christian Rohr
    • Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of Bern
    • Institute of History, Section of Economic, Social and Environmental History (WSU)University of Bern
  • Werner Siegfried
    • Agroscope Research Station ACWExtension Wine
  • Johan Söderberg
    • Department of Economic HistoryStockholm University
  • Jean-Laurent Spring
    • Station de recherche Agroscope à Pully
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