Disentangling the causes of the 1816 European year without a summer

Schurer, Andrew P. and Hegerl, Gabriele C. and Luterbacher, Jurg and Bronnimann, Stefan and Cowan, Tim and Tett, Simon F. B. and Zanchettin, Davide and Timmreck, Claudia (2019) Disentangling the causes of the 1816 European year without a summer. Environmental Research Letters, 14 (094019). pp. 1-10.

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Abstract

The European summer of 1816 has often been referred to as a ‘year without a summer’ due to anomalously cold conditions and unusual wetness, which led to widespread famines and agricultural failures. The cause has often been assumed to be the eruption of Mount Tambora in April 1815, however this link has not, until now, been proven. Here we apply state-of-the-art event attribution methods to quantify the contribution by the eruption and random weather variability to this extreme European summer climate anomaly. By selecting analogue summers that have similar sea-level- pressure patterns to that observed in 1816 from both observations and unperturbed climate model simulations,we show that the circulation state can reproduce the precipitation anomaly without external forcing, but can explain only about a quarter of the anomalously cold conditions. We find that in climate models, including the forcing by the Tambora eruption makes the European cold anomaly up to 100 times more likely, while the precipitation anomaly became 1.5–3 times as likely, attributing a large fraction of the observed anomalies to the volcanic forcing. Our study thus demonstrates how linking regional climate anomalies to large-scale circulation is necessary to quantitatively interpret and attribute post-eruption variability.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published version made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment - Centre for Applied Climate Sciences (1 Aug 2018 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment - Centre for Applied Climate Sciences (1 Aug 2018 -)
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2019 02:40
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2020 05:30
Uncontrolled Keywords: climate event attribution, climate response to volcanic eruptions, European summer climate, the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora
Fields of Research (2008): 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040104 Climate Change Processes
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040107 Meteorology
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040102 Atmospheric Dynamics
04 Earth Sciences > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040605 Palaeoclimatology
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040105 Climatology (excl.Climate Change Processes)
Fields of Research (2020): 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3702 Climate change science > 370201 Climate change processes
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3701 Atmospheric sciences > 370108 Meteorology
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3701 Atmospheric sciences > 370105 Atmospheric dynamics
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3709 Physical geography and environmental geoscience > 370904 Palaeoclimatology
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3702 Climate change science > 370202 Climatology
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960303 Climate Change Models
D Environment > 96 Environment > 9602 Atmosphere and Weather > 960202 Atmospheric Processes and Dynamics
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab3a10
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/37178

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