Arno Balzarini  /  AP
A hiker passes by a small lake in the Swiss Alps near Stels, Switzerland, in late October as the region marked an unusually warm fall season.
updated 12/5/2006 11:34:04 AM ET 2006-12-05T16:34:04

Europe's Alpine region is going through its warmest period in 1,300 years, the head of an extensive climate study said Tuesday.

"We are currently experiencing the warmest period in the Alpine region in 1,300 years," Reinhard Boehm, a climatologist at Austria's Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics said.

Boehm based his comments on the results of a project conducted by a group of European institutes between March 2003 and August 2006. Their aim was to reconstruct the climate in the region encompassing the Rhone Valley in France to the west, Budapest, Hungary to the east, Tuscany, Italy to the south and Nuremberg, Germany to the north over the past 1,000 years.

Boehm said the current warm period in the Alpine region began in the 1980s, noting that a similar warming occurred in the 10th and 12th centuries. However, the temperatures during those phases were "slightly under the temperatures we've experienced over the past 20 years."

Humans first had an impact on the global climate in the 1950s, Boehm said, noting that at first, the release of aerosols into the atmosphere cooled the climate. Since the 1980s, however, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane have warmed it up, he said.

"It will undoubtedly get warmer in the future," Boehm said.

Sponsored by the European Union, the project sought to homogenize climate data collected in the Alpine region over the past 250 years. Climate reconstruction focused on seven parameters, including temperature, sunshine periods and cloud cover. Tree rings and ice core measurements were also taken into consideration.

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