According to an article recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, the last fall/winter season was Europe's warmest in 700 years. In fact, the last time Europeans witnessed such unusually high temperatures was in 1289.
Jürg Luterbacher of the University of Bern, Switzerland, the study's lead investigator, mined temperature and climate records from across Europe that went back several hundred years to draw this conclusion. "People in churches, or doctors, wrote diaries, and usually they also included information about weather and climate. Climate historians can use and interpret this information and translate it into a temperature value," explained Luterbacher, who used these records to compare past and recent temperatures.What is particularly unusual about the temperatures seen in the fall of 2006 and the winter of 2007 is not necessarily their values (though they were high), but the fact that one immediately followed the other, a sequential juxtaposition not seen since 1289.
While Luterbacher hypothesizes that the high temperatures experienced in 1289 were most likely the result of a large volcanic eruption, he and his colleagues attribute last year's warmer fall/winter season to the movement of warm air up from the Atlantic off the coast of North Africa.
Though they can't yet say with certainty whether such an unusual incident is due solely to global warming, they draw a direct comparison to a similar 2004 study that indicated that it was "very likely that human influence has at least doubled the risk" of extreme weather incidents such as the recent heat wave that killed 35,000 people in Europe.
Via ::Freak winter is Europe's warmest for 700 years (news website)