Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Spanish droughts over past 500 years reconstructed

A Spanish research group has reconstructed the pattern of droughts in Spain between 1506 and 1900 on the basis of ceremonial records held at the Cathedral of Toledo, in order to observe how droughts have varied over the past 500 years.

Short-term meteorological data and tree growth rings have also been used to supplement the records of ceremonies.

Historical documents such as the records of rogativas (ceremonies with origins dating back to Roman agricultural rites) compiled at the Cathedral of Toledo and municipal churches, have allowed researchers to gain an insight into the climatological period between 1506 and 1900 in Toledo and Madrid, particularly in regard to extreme weather events such as droughts.

After processing this information, the scientists published their work in Global and Planetary Change. Their article shows that droughts in Spain throughout most of the 16th Century were infrequent and shorter than in subsequent periods. The period between 1676 and 1710 was characterised by lower hydric stress, and the 19th Century experienced a low frequency of droughts. However, “the most severe droughts were recorded during the period from the end of the 16th Century up until the 18th Century”, Juan I. Santisteban, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) tells SINC.

The researchers discovered that “droughts were more frequent and stronger than in other periods” in the centre of the peninsula during the Little Ice Age, a period covering the time period studied. Although drought intensity was similar to present-day levels, the study was unable to clarify whether current droughts last longer than previous ones, “even though the greater demand for water today makes the lack of water seem so severe”, says Santisteban.

The study also checked the results against those obtained from other records in the Mediterranean area. “Notable differences can be observed between the frequency and duration of droughts – we find rainy periods and droughts at the same time in different parts of the Iberian Peninsula and also differences between northern and southern parts,” points out Santisteban.

The combined analysis of this drought information and of atmospheric pressure at sea level – carried out by researchers from the UCM, the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, and the University of Barcelona – shows that periods of frequent droughts coincide with positive phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which produces prolonged anti-cyclonic conditions in the Azores. However, they add that “the topography of the Iberian Peninsula could be largely responsible for much of the heterogeneity of the drought phenomenon”.

The Church, tracking the climate

Ceremonies carried out at the Cathedral of Toledo were controlled by strict protocols set by the Church, and varied according to the gravity of meteorological conditions. In Spain, the cathedral archives of many dioceses hold relatively continuous records from the 16th Century onwards.

The data on rogativas analysed by the scientists come from three sources – the 121 volumes of capitulary records from the Cathedral of Toledo, which record daily life from 1466 to 1599, the book started by Juan Bautista de Chaves Arcayos (who summarised the capitulary books from 1434 to 1599 and incorporated his own updates), and the 331 volumes of capitulary books (1464-1914), which fill in the gaps between the capitulary records.

This series of rogativas contains 341 prayers for rain, 36 pro-serenitate prayers for fine weather, and 94 Masses of thanks (ceremonies to celebrate the ending of the climatological phenomenon that had necessitated the rogativa). Many of the rogativas were part of Spring ceremonies.

SINC Team | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>