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Apports des sciences historiques

The Little Ice Age in Italy from documentary proxies and early instrumental records

Le petit âge de glace en Italie, des proxies à la mesure
Dario Camuffo, Chiara Bertolin, Patrizia Schenal, Alberto Craievich and Rossella Granziero
p. 17-30

Abstracts

This paper presents and discusses sea-level rise in Venice and past temperature changes over Italy during the Little Ice Age (LIA), through the analysis of proxies and early instrumental readings. Instrumental records are available from 1872 for sea level and from 1654 onwards for temperature but with a gap from 1670 to 1716. For earlier periods, documentary proxies have been used. In Venice, the most severe winters are known from written sources since the origin of the city ; furthermore, some paintings provide a view of the frozen lagoon. From 1500 to 1758, sea level has been reconstructed using two proxies : the algal belt visible in paintings by Veronese (16th century), Canaletto and Bellotto (18th century) and the submersion of the honour stairs of the historic palaces facing the Canal Grande. The depth of the lowest steps of the water stairs is correlated with sea level and constitutes a useful proxy. The result is that sea level in Venice rose at an exponential rate after the onset of global warming. The same can be said for the storm surges flooding the city. Concerning air temperature, written sources have been gathered from public and private libraries and archives, and the information has been transformed into indexed proxies from -3 (extreme cold) to +3° C (extreme warmth), 0 being normality. In general, documentary proxies are useful to pinpoint extreme weather or unusual periods on the short time scale. Documentary proxies are also useful to determine the frequency of extreme events, but fail in determining long-term trends or cycles that are only recognizable in instrumental records. Instrumental records show that the temperature was characterized by repeated cold-warm swings, with a warm maximum culminating between 1725-30, similar or even greater than the present-day level. The multiproxy temperature reconstruction models have been tested with the proxy and instrumental data gathered in northern-central Italy, and the results are discussed.

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Author's notes

The Authors are particularly grateful to the Frogmen Team of the Italian National Police, Venice, who made the underwater measurements concerning the monumental stairs in Canal Grande, essential to this study. The kind cooperation of the colleagues Fabio Trincardi and Roberto Zonta (CNR-ISMAR, Bologna and Venice) and Francesco Di Biasio (CNR-ISAC) is also acknowledged and highly appreciated. Sincere thanks are due to Elena Fumagalli and Daniele Resini © Insula spa, Venice, for the archive research and Fig.5b. This study has been made in the framework of the EU funded project Climate for Culture (Grant 226973).

Excerpt

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Outline

1 - Great frost in Venice
2 - Sea-level rise in Venice
3 - Extreme storm surges in Venice
4 - The air temperature records in Italy
5 - Comparison of observations with multiproxy temperature reconstruction models
Conclusions

First lines

The term ‘Little Ice Age’ (LIA) is used to describe a past climate epoch in Europe roughly from 1450 to 1850. The timing, however, varies geographically (IPCC, 2013). In Italy, climate change from the LIA to present-day global warming is presented thanks to documentary proxies and instrumental observations. This climate change produced an acceleration in sea-level rise that was, and still is, a tremendous challenge for Venice.

Documentary proxies include man-made written or iconographic data sources, which directly or indirectly reflect the past events that affected society (STANFORD, 1986 ; BRADZIL et al., 2005) e.g. weather or natural hazards. Written sources may be narrative, administrative, daily weather logs or other types. They can be divided into ‘first class’, composed of contemporary manuscripts ; ‘second class’ reliable but not contemporary collections ; and ‘third class’ less reliable sources that should be rejected. Non-contemporary sources, i.e. second class, should not ...

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References

Electronic reference

Dario Camuffo, Chiara Bertolin, Patrizia Schenal, Alberto Craievich and Rossella Granziero, « The Little Ice Age in Italy from documentary proxies and early instrumental records », Méditerranée [Online], 122 | 2014, Online since 19 June 2016, connection on 26 April 2017. URL : http://mediterranee.revues.org/7005 ; DOI : 10.4000/mediterranee.7005

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About the authors

Dario Camuffo

Institute of Atmospheric Science and Climate, Italian National Research Council (ISAC-CNR), Padova Italy, d.camuffo@isac.cnr.it

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Chiara Bertolin

Institute of Atmospheric Science and Climate, Italian National Research Council (ISAC-CNR), Padova Italy, c.bertolin@isac.cnr.it

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Patrizia Schenal

Free Lance Architect, litasch31@vodafone.it

Alberto Craievich

CA REZZONICO, FONDAZIONE MUSEI VENEZIANI, VENICE, ITALY, alberto.craievich@fmcvenezia.it

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Rossella Granziero

Correr Museum, Fondazione Musei Veneziani, Venice, Italy, rossella.granziero@fmcvenezia.it

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Copyright

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