New research finds that the Roman Warm Period was the warmest period of the last 2 kyr, about 2 °C warmer than today.
Abstract – Reconstruction of last millennia Sea Surface Temperature (SST) evolution is challenging due to the difficulty retrieving good resolution marine records and to the several uncertainties in the available proxy tools. In this regard, the Roman Period (1 CE to 500 CE) was particularly relevant in the socio-cultural development of the Mediterranean region while its climatic characteristics remain uncertain. Here we present a new SST reconstruction from the Sicily Channel based in Mg/Ca ratios measured on the planktonic foraminifer Globigerinoides ruber. This new record is framed in the context of other previously published Mediterranean SST records from the Alboran Sea, Minorca Basin and Aegean Sea and also compared to a north Hemisphere temperature reconstruction. The most solid image that emerges of this trans-Mediterranean comparison is the persistent regional occurrence of a distinct warm phase during the Roman Period. This record comparison consistently shows the Roman as the warmest period of the last 2 kyr, about 2 °C warmer than average values for the late centuries for the Sicily and Western Mediterranean regions. After the Roman Period a general cooling trend developed in the region with several minor oscillations. We hypothesis the potential link between this Roman Climatic Optimum and the expansion and subsequent decline of the Roman Empire.