Thu, Dec 07, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Alps face warmest period in more than 1,300 years


Europe's Alpine region is going through its warmest period in 1,300 years, a leading climatologist said on Tuesday.

Reinhard Boehm, a climatologist at Austria's Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics based his findings on an extensive climate study that he conducted with a group of European institutes between March 2003 and August this year.

"We are currently experiencing the warmest period in the Alpine region in 1,300 years," Boehm said.

The study's aim was to reconstruct the climate in the region encompassing the Rhone Valley in France to the west, Budapest, Hungary to the east, Tuscany, Italy to the south and Nuremberg, Germany to the north over the past 1,000 years.

Boehm said the current warm period in the Alpine region began in the 1980s, noting that a similar warming period occurred in the 10th and 12th centuries. However, the temperatures during those phases were "slightly below the temperatures we've experienced over the past 20 years."

Humans first had an impact on the global climate in the 1950s, Boehm said, noting that at first, the release of aerosols into the atmosphere cooled the climate. Since the 1980s, however, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane have warmed it up, he said.

"It will undoubtedly get warmer in the future," Boehm said.

Sponsored by the EU, the project sought to standardize climate data collected in the Alpine region over the past 250 years. Climate reconstruction focused on seven parameters, including temperature, sunshine periods and cloud cover. Tree rings and ice core measurements were also taken into consideration.

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