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Extreme heat and drought in 1473 and their impacts in Europe in the context of the early 1470s

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Abstract

Droughts and heatwaves are both dangerous natural hazards with a potential significant impact on human societies. In order to understand these hazards, it is important to examine such extreme events in the past. During the years 1471 to 1474, warm and dry weather conditions are described in most parts of Europe. Until now, these extraordinary years have not been examined in depth. Moreover, in spring 1473, a great drought and heat occurred in Europe. This heatwave facilitated a fast phenological development. During the summer and the autumn, temperatures were unusually high, and extremely dry weather conditions continued. In many places, the harvest began remarkably early, and there was abundant wine of a good quality. Fruit trees even bloomed for the second time in autumn. The heat and drought had a considerable impact on the environment and also caused damage to agriculture and society, including water shortages, harvest failures and rising food prices. The weather conditions of the years from 1471 to 1474 were outstanding during the fifteenth century and the heatwave and drought, as well as impacts on environment, economy, and society in the year 1473, were comparable to—if not more severe—than those in the year 1540. Learning from past climate anomalies like the 1473 drought in Europe is important for evaluating more recent and future climate extremes under increasing anthropogenic pressure.

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Acknowledgements

R. Brázdil acknowledges support by the Czech Science Foundation, project no. 17-10026S. We acknowledge Laurent Litzenburger (Nancy, France) for sharing his Metz data and Astrid E.J. Ogilvie (Boulder, USA) for language editing and proofreading. The paper is a contribution to the PAGES (Past Global Changes) Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies (CRIAS) working group.

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Correspondence to Chantal Camenisch.

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Table 3 Analysed primary and secondary sources by regions according to Eurovoc

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Camenisch, C., Brázdil, R., Kiss, A. et al. Extreme heat and drought in 1473 and their impacts in Europe in the context of the early 1470s. Reg Environ Change 20, 19 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-020-01601-0

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Keywords

  • Drought
  • Heat
  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Human impact
  • Locusts
  • Wildfires