Scientists have swapped the misleading term “global warming” for the more accurate “climate change,” but that doesn’t mean temperatures aren’t heating up. In Europe, says a new study, we’re currently enjoying the hottest summers since Roman times.
Because temperature records don’t go back so far, the researchers counted tree rings. This process, called dendroclimatology, lets climatologists infer various climate parameters, including temperature, from thousands of years past. And the results, published in Environmental Research Letters, show that Europe is currently in an extended hot spell unlike anything in thousands of years.
The figures show that the current hot streak has no precedent in the last two millennia. “Recent summers … have been unusually warm in the context of the last two millennia,” say the authors, ”and there are no 30-year periods in either reconstruction that exceed the mean average European summer temperature of the last three decades.”
The data goes back to 138 BC, but the researchers chose only to rely on data from 755–2003 AD.
While there were some historical summer temperatures in Europe that were higher than today, they were deemed statistically insignificant. The real meat of the study comes in the last 30 years, when temperatures jump to unprecedented levels. These changes are particularly easy to see in Southern Europe, where overall variations are smaller. In other words, summer jaunts to Italy are getting a little bit sweatier.