Warmer and wetter winters
After traveling down into the cave’s depths and collecting their ice core samples, the researchers were then able to chart the details of winter conditions growing warmer and wetter over time in Eastern and Central Europe. They found that temperatures reached a maximum during the mid-Holocene some 7,000 to 5,000 years ago and decreased afterward toward the Little Ice Age, 150 years ago.
The researchers also found that a major shift in atmospheric dynamics occurred during the mid-Holocene, when winter storm tracks switched and produced wetter and colder conditions in northwestern Europe, and the expansion of a Mediterranean-type climate toward southeastern Europe.
“Our reconstruction provides one of the very few winter climate reconstructions, filling in numerous gaps in our knowledge of past climate variability,” explains University of South Florida scientist Bogdan Onac.
Those warming temperatures then led to rapid environmental changes that allowed Neolithic farmers to expand northward toward mainland Europe, leading to the rapid population of the continent.
“Our data allow us to reconstruct the interplay between Atlantic and Mediterranean sources of moisture,” Onac said. “We can also draw conclusions about past atmospheric circulation patterns, with implications for future climate changes. Our research offers a long-term context to better understand these changes.”
The study, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted by researchers from the University of South Florida, University of Belfast, University of Bremen and Stockholm University, Emil Racovita Institute of Speleology in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and other institutions.
The scientists are now continuing their cave study in an effort to extend the climate record back 13,000 years or more.
NOTE: The Holocene encompasses the growth and impacts of the human species worldwide, including all its written history, development of major civilizations, and overall significant transition toward urban living in the present. Human impacts on modern-era Earth and its ecosystems may be considered of global significance for future evolution of living species, including approximately synchronous lithospheric evidence, or more recently atmospheric evidence of human impacts. Given these, a new term, Anthropocene, is specifically proposed and used informally only for the very latest part of modern history involving significant human impact.