Skip to main content

Sixty-cm Submersion of Venice Discovered Thanks to Canaletto's Paintings


Relative sea level (RSL) rise is a crucial issue for the safeguard of Venice and its historical buildings. The phenomenon over the last three centuries has been investigated by using a proxy of mean sea level: the height of the algae front on palaces. This indicator was accurately drawn by Canaletto and his pupils in their `photographic' paintings made with an optical camera obscura. The positions of the fronts in the 18th century and the present were compared. The RSL rise is due to a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors, both local and global, which affected the land subsidence. An analysis was performed to establish the long-term trend and distinguish between natural and local man contributions. A prudent scenario for the future would suggest a rate between 1.9 ± 0.4 mm yr−1 and 2.3 ± 0.4 mm yr−1.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Ammerman, A. J. and McClennen, C. E.: 2000, ‘Saving Venice’, Science 289, 5483, 1301–1302.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ammerman, A. J., McClennen, C. E., De Min, M., and Housley, R.: 1999, ‘Sea-level Change and the Archaeology of Early Venice’, Antiquity 73, 303–312.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bondesan, M., Gatti, M., and Russo, P.: 2001, ‘Vertical Ground Movements Obtained from I. G. M. Levelling Surveys’, in Castiglioni, G. B. and Pellegrini, G. B. (eds.), Illustrative Notes of the Geomorphological Map of the Po Plain, Suppl. Geogr. Fis. Dinam. Quat. 4, 141–148.

  • Camuffo, D.: 1993, ‘Analysis of the Sea Surges at Venice from A.D. 782 to 1990’, Theor. Appl. Climatol. 47, 1–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Camuffo, D.: 2001, ‘Canaletto's Paintings Open a New Window on the Relative Sea Level Rise in Venice’, J. Cult. Heritage 4, 227–281.

    Google Scholar 

  • Camuffo, D., Colacino, M., Sturaro, G., and Pagan, E.: 2002, ‘Small-scale Severe Weather Phenomena (Observations, Processes, Climatology): A European View’, Report of the IPCC Workshop on Changes in Extreme Weather and Climate Events, Beijing 11-13 June 2002, pp. 68–71.

  • Canestrelli, P. and Cossutta, L.: 2001, Moto ondoso in Canal Grande, Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree, Venice, 82 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carbognin, L. and Taroni, G.: 1996, ‘Eustatismo a Venezia e Trieste nell'ultimo secolo’, Atti Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti 154, 281–298.

    Google Scholar 

  • Colombo, P.: 1972, ‘Problemi relativi alla difesa della cittá di Venezia’, Rivista Italiana Geotecnica 1, 7–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Enzi, S. and Camuffo, D.: 1995, ‘Documentary Sources of Sea Surges in Venice from A.D. 787 to 1867’, Natural Hazards 12, 225–287.

    Google Scholar 

  • IPCC: 2001, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis,WMO-UNEP, Cambridge University Press, 881 pp.

  • Piervitali, E., Colacino, M., and Conte, M.: 1997, ‘Signals of Climatic Change in the Central-Western Mediterranean Basin’, Theor. Appl. Climatol. 58, 211–219.

    Google Scholar 

  • Piervitali, E., Colacino M., and Conte, M.: 1998, ‘Rainfall over the Central-Western Mediterranean Basin in the period 1951-1995. Part I: Precipitation Trends’, Nuovo Cimento 21C(3), 331–344.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pirazzoli, P. A.: 2002, ‘Did the Italian Government Approve an Obsolete Project to Save Venice?’ Eos, Trans. Amer. Geoph. Union 83, 20, 217–218.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pirazzoli, P. A. and Tomasin, A.: 1999, ‘L'evoluzione recente delle cause meteorologiche dell' “Acqua Alta”’, Atti Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti 157, 317–344.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rusconi, A.: 1983, Il Comune Marino a Venezia: ricerche e ipotesi sulle sue variazioni altimetriche e sui fenomeni naturali che le determinano, Uff. Idrogr.Magistrato Acque, Tech. Rep. 157, Venice.

  • Teatini, P., Gambolati, G., and Tosi, L.: 1995, ‘A New Three-dimensional Nonlinear Model of the Subsidence at Venice’, in Barends, F. B. J. et al. (eds.), Land Subsidence Proc. Int. Symp., The Hague, IAHS 234, pp. 353–361.

  • Tsimplis, M. N. and Baker, T. F.: 2000, 'Sea Level Drop in the Mediterranean: An Indicator of Deep Water Salinity and Temperature Changes?, Geophys. Res. Lett. 27(12), 1731–1734.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wigley, T. M. L. and Raper, S. C. B.: 1992, ‘Implications for Climate and Sea Level of Revised IPCC Emissions Scenarios’, Nature 357, 293–300.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Camuffo, D., Sturaro, G. Sixty-cm Submersion of Venice Discovered Thanks to Canaletto's Paintings. Climatic Change 58, 333–343 (2003).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: