PAGES-MedCLIVAR Workshop: Climate Extremes During Recent Millennia and their Impact on Mediterranean Societies

13.09 - 16.09.2008
Athens, Greece
Workshop report: 
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Climate extremes in the Mediterranean

Climatic extremes in the past few thousand years have severely impacted societies throughout the Mediterranean and changed the outcome of historical events in some instances. Most natural disasters involve increased vulnerability to natural hazards as a consequence of human actions preceding such events. The impacts of climatic extremes - €”droughts, floods, prolonged cold and heat - €”affect society in a variety of forms operating through famine, disease, and social upheaval.

High-resolution paleoclimate research using tree rings, tropical corals, speleothems, other natural archives and man-made documentary evidence demonstrates that large-scale climatic phenomena, such as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, large scale circulation patterns such as the NAO and other modes of variability on interannual to centennial time scales can have profound and widespread effects on the climate of the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean offers a broad spectrum of some yet unexplored documentary information and natural archives making the area ideal for the study of climatic extremes and socio-economic impacts.

Climate model simulations provide evidence of significant multi-decadal to centennial scale climatic variations on large regional scales. These simulated episodes of anomalous climatic regimes are becoming consistent with the paleoclimatic evidence.

Recent studies suggest that the period associated with the so-called Medieval Climatic Anomaly was indeed associated with extended regional anomalies of large magnitude in many parts of the world. Other studies have shown that the transition from the Medieval Climatic Anomaly to the Little Ice Age was one of recurrent extreme climatic conditions on interannual to multi-decadal time scales.


The symposium was held in September (13-16) 2008 at the premises of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens under the sponsorship of the European Science Foundation (MedCLIVAR program:, Mariolopoulos-Kanaginis Foundation for the Environmental Sciences, IGBP-PAGES, National Observatory of Athens and Academy of Athens.

It was attended by 51 scientists from Europe and the US from different disciplines such as: paleoclimatology, climatology, anthropology, geology, archaeology, and historians working on the Greater Mediterranean Region.

The symposium focused on the detection and analysis of significant climate anomalies in the Mediterranean region from different epochs, timescales and disciplines. It built on the results of the previous ESF-MedCLIVAR / PAGES workshop on "€œReconstruction of Past Mediterranean climate"€ that was held in 2006, but was focused on natural proxies over the Eastern part of the region.

This symposium was organised through the following themes / sessions: Mediterranean climate change in the instrumental period€, Natural and documentary proxies, as tools for detection of climate extremes, the €œInfluence of volcanoes€, the Multiproxy approach including integration between €œProxies and models and the €œImpacts of climate changes and extreme events in the Mediterranean societies.

The Symposium took place at the premises of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens ( The Symposium was organised by ESF-MedCLIVAR, the Mariolopoulos-Kanaginis Foundation and IGBP-PAGES, and it was hosted locally by the Academy of Athens, the University of Athens and the Mariolopoulos-Kanaginis Foundation in Greece.


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Elena Xoplaki1,2,3
Phil Jones4
Ricardo Garci­a-Herrera5
Mark Besonen6
Henry Diaz7
Alexander Gershunov8
Christos Zerefos9
Christos Giannakopoulos9
Carol Griggs10
Christoph Raible1,11
Yves M. Tourre12

1 Oeschger Centre, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
2 Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
3 EEWRC, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus
4 University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
5 Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain
6 University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA
8 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, San Diego, USA
9 National Observatory of Athens, Athens, Greece
10 Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
11 Institute of Physics, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
12 LDEO, USA and MeteoFrance, France


Elena Xoplaki, University of Bern, Switzerland
Henry Diaz, NOAA/ESRL, Boulder, USA
Jürg Luterbacher, University of Bern, Switzerland
Malcolm Hughes, University of Arizona, USA
Ray Bradley, University of Massachusetts, USA
Ricardo Garcia-Herrera , University Complutense, Madrid, Spain
Ercan Kahya, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Phil Jones, Climatic Research Unit, UK
Christos Zerefos, Academy of Athens, University of Athens, Greece
Thorsten Kiefer, PAGES, Bern, Switzerland