January 15, 2013
Climate and history (in Eastern Europe)
Filling the Eastern European gap in millennium-long temperature reconstructions
Ulf Büntgen et al.
Tree ring–based temperature reconstructions form the scientific backbone of the current global change debate. Although some European records extend into medieval times, high-resolution, long-term, regional-scale paleoclimatic evidence is missing for the eastern part of the continent. Here we compile 545 samples of living trees and historical timbers from the greater Tatra region to reconstruct interannual to centennial-long variations in Eastern European May–June temperature back to 1040 AD. Recent anthropogenic warming exceeds the range of past natural climate variability. Increased plague outbreaks and political conflicts, as well as decreased settlement activities, coincided with temperature depressions. The Black Death in the mid-14th century, the Thirty Years War in the early 17th century, and the French Invasion of Russia in the early 19th century all occurred during the coldest episodes of the last millennium. A comparison with summer temperature reconstructions from Scandinavia, the Alps, and the Pyrenees emphasizes the seasonal and spatial specificity of our results, questioning those large-scale reconstructions that simply average individual sites.