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

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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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... These different modifications of circulation may have changed the major contributor in the Strait of Sicily during LGM, passing from Atlantic influence in interglacial periods, to Adriatic influence in glacial periods. However, the Adriatic Sea is particularly sensitive to glacial conditions, as seen during the LIA (Camuffo et al, 2014). Due to its shallow depth and semi-enclosed basin, surronded by the Alps, Adriatic Sea is largely exposed to cold norther winds and to the influence of Alps glaciers. ...
... This decrease is attributed to the well-known cold episode in Europe due to a sudden cooling of the Northern Hemisphere. Some historical records such as chronicles or paintings describes particularly sever winters in the Adriatic region, characterized by formation of ice sheet in the Venice Lagoon(Camuffo et al, 2014). SST in this period accused a decrease in relation with atmospheric forcing, driving cold northerly through the Mediterranean region. ...
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The causes and features of storm surges formation in the Venetian Lagoon are discussed. The experience of sea level observations in Venice and the history of floods caused by storm surges, in particular, acqua alta of 1966 and 2019, are described. The recurrence of storm surges was found to increase in the recent 60 years. The hydroengineering measures aimed to protect Venice against floods are considered.
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Preprint
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An innovative survey was conducted of the collections of the historical Biblioteca Classense, located in the urban area of Ravenna (Northern Italy). The survey aimed to evaluate the current conservation state of the book collections, where 297 paper-based items, including incunabulae, manuscripts and books, dating from the 14th to the 20th century, were selected for analysis. This innovative survey was carried out non-destructively by assessing degradation visually and by measuring NIR spectral data followed by multivariate data analysis. Chemical and physical paper properties, important for paper characterisation and implementation of conservation strategies were determined, including paper type, pH, degree of polymerisation (DP), tensile strength, lignin, protein, and rosin content. This survey provided a significant quantitative dataset for rag paper covering a 600-year period. The analysis of DP changes over time allowed the first experimental estimation of the rate constant for historical rag paper, i.e., (4.2±0.6)·10-7 year-1, which was validated with predictions based on the Collections Demography dose response function for historic paper taking into account the past climate in Ravenna. Statistical methods were employed to describe the correlations between the measured variables and different features of the books, suggesting that the degree of polymerisation can be used as a general proxy for rag paper mechanical strength.
... On the other hand, the average annual temperature over the last 10 years (from January 2009 to January 2019) in Ravenna has been 15 o C [64], meaning that a passive storage area in a building with a large thermal mass could have a lower annual average temperature than that. In addition, the climate has been warming up since the Little Ice Age in the 16th century [65], meaning that the past temperatures experienced by the collection may have been significantly lower than those measured in the same building today, and thus the above calculated rate of rag paper degradation may be a valid estimation. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
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