Monk’s Diaries Reveal Climate Trend

LONDON – Centuries-old monks’ diaries are helping scientists understand and predict climate change, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that historical written records on weather from the past 500 years broadly match modern computer simulations of European climate patterns.

The findings will help lead to more accurate European climate forecasts in the future, lead researcher Gabi Hegerl said.

“The climate models seem to be working quite well for the past, so we should expect that – at least when it comes to temperature – they will do well for the future,” Hegerl said.

Scientists looked at harvest records and weather-station archives from the 17th to the 19th centuries, but older data were hard to come by.

Using European monks’ diaries dating back to 1500, scientists looked for evidence about whether the writers experienced warm or cold summers and winters. The monks’ musings were then compared to computer simulations for the relevant time periods.

The computer simulations took into account various influences on the weather, such as volcanic activity, variations in the sun’s temperature and – more recently – an increase in greenhouse gases.

Hegerl said the researchers’ findings suggest that greenhouse gases and current human behaviour are “definitely going to shape the climate in a significant and visible way.”

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