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Hottest summers in the last 2000 years were during Roman times

There’s a reason the Romans wore Togas

A new study near Sicily shows the sea surface temperatures were a whole two degrees Celsius warmer then. The worst-case scenario of the Paris Agreement has already happened, and it was nearly 2,000 years ago.  And instead of being a baked-earth apocalypse, the Roman empire flourished during the warmth and declined as it cooled.

Time to burn oil and Make Rome Great Again?

The expansion of the Roman Empire coincided with the warmest period in the Mediterranean of the last 2,000 years.

Probably just a coincidence. /

A formanifera with the awkward name of Globigerinoides ruber apparently likes to live near the sea surface around 10 to 50 m down. Depending on the temperature, it ends up with slightly different ratios of calcium and magnesium. At some point it dies, sinks and sits in a mud layer on the sea floor 475m below. Eventually, for this lucky mud, someone digs it out and analyses it. This new study suggests the Mediteranean warmed up during Roman times from AD 1 to AD 500.

This was the Roman Climatic Optimum — an era we are spending trillions to avoid.

The researchers suggest that cooling and drying conditions helped bring down the Roman Empire. Though, judging by the current state of civilization, it appears vandals can work with any kind of weather.

Obviously this study related to the area near Italy, but other studies show the Roman era was warmer in Antarctica, Greenland, Venezuela, North America, Alaska, South Africa, China, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Roman Climatic Optimum

… Click to enlarge.

The media’s take on this is not to take the obvious headlines like, say, Rome was once hotter than now — man-made climate change is irrelevant. OR:

Climate change has happened before. So What?

Instead this new study is a reminder of how climate can alter the course of civilization. That serves two purposes. It bolsters the sense that climate change is all doom and gloom, and Very Important. Secondly, it distracts people from looking at other reasons that Roman civilization collapsed — like corruption, complacency and currency inflation.

Press Release: Universitat De Barcelona

The greatest time of the Roman Empire coincided with the warmest period of the last 2,000 years in the Mediterranean, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, from the Nature group. The climate conditions derived progressively towards arid conditions and later colder ones coinciding with the historical fall of the empire,

Previous studies had related the fall of the Roman Empire to some natural factors (climate change, volcanic eruptions, etc.). With a large-scale regional view, the study provides high resolution and precision data on how the temperatures evolved over the last 2,000 years in the Mediterranean area. “For the first time, we can state the roman period was the warmest period of time of the last 2,000 years, and these conditions lasted for 500 years”, notes Isabel Cacho, professor at the Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics of the UB.

 Mediterranean Sea was 3.6°F hotter during the time of the Roman Empire – the warmest it has been for the past 2,000 years, study shows

Johnathon Chadwick, Daily Telegraph

‘For the first time, we can state the Roman period was the warmest period of time of the last 2,000 years, and these conditions lasted for 500 years,’ said Professor Isabel Cacho at the Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics, University of Barcelona.

The Mediterranean is a semi-closed sea, meaning it is surrounded by land and almost only connected to oceans by a narrow outlet, and is a climate change ‘hot spot’ according to a previous paper.


h/t Colin

 Background Information:


Margaritelli, G., Cacho, I., Català, A. et al. (2020) Persistent warm Mediterranean surface waters during the Roman periodSci Rep 10, 10431. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-67281-2

Garcia-Solsona, E.; Pena, L. D.; Paredes, E. ; Perez-Asensio, J.N.; Quirós-Collazos, L. ; Lirer, F.; Cacho. I. (2020) “Rare Earth Elements and Nd isotopes as tracers of modern ocean circulation in the central Mediterranean Sea”. Progress in Oceanography, June. Doi:/10.1016/j.pocean.2020.102340

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