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