Revising Alpine summer temperatures since 881 CE

Eileen Kuhl, Jan Esper, Lea Schneider, Valerie Trouet, Marcel Kunz, Lara Klippel, Ulf Büntgen, Claudia Hartl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Europe experienced severe heat waves during the last decade, which impacted ecological and societal systems and are likely to increase under projected global warming. A better understanding of pre-industrial warm-season changes is needed to contextualize these recent trends and extremes. Here, we introduce a network of 352 living and relict larch trees (Larix decidua Mill.) from the Matter and Simplon valleys in the Swiss Alps to develop a maximum latewood density (MXD) chronology calibrating at r = 0.8 (p > 0.05, 1901–2017 CE) against May–August temperatures over Western Europe. Machine learning is applied to identify historical wood samples aligning with growth characteristics of sites from elevations above 1900 m asl to extend the modern part of the chronology back to 881 CE. The new Alpine record reveals warmer conditions in the tenth century, followed by an extended cold period during the late Medieval times, a less-pronounced Little Ice Age culminating in the 1810s, and prolonged anthropogenic warming until present. The Samalas eruption likely triggered the coldest reconstructed summer in Western Europe in 1258 CE (-2.32 °C), which is in line with a recently published MXD-based reconstruction from the Spanish Pyrenees. Whereas the new Alpine reconstruction is potentially constrained in the lowest frequency, centennial timescale domain, it overcomes variance biases in existing state-of-the-art reconstructions and sets a new standard in site-control of historical samples and calibration/ verification statistics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClimate Dynamics
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Climate change
  • Climate reconstruction
  • Dendrochronology
  • Europe
  • European Alps
  • Tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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