Recent human-induced atmospheric drying across Europe unprecedented in the last 400 years

Kerstin Treydte*, Laibao Liu, Ryan S. Padrón, Elisabet Martínez-Sancho, Flurin Babst, David C. Frank, Arthur Gessler, Ansgar Kahmen, Benjamin Poulter, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Annemiek I. Stegehuis, Rob Wilson, Laia Andreu-Hayles, Roderick Bale, Zdzislaw Bednarz, Tatjana Boettger, Frank Berninger, Ulf Büntgen, Valerie Daux, Isabel Dorado-LiñánJan Esper, Michael Friedrich, Mary Gagen, Michael Grabner, Håkan Grudd, Björn E. Gunnarsson, Emilia Gutiérrez, Polona Hafner, Marika Haupt, Emmi Hilasvuori, Ingo Heinrich, Gerhard Helle, Risto Jalkanen, Högne Jungner, Maarit Kalela-Brundin, Andreas Kessler, Andreas Kirchhefer, Stephan Klesse, Marek Krapiec, Tom Levanič, Markus Leuenberger, Hans W. Linderholm, Danny McCarroll, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Slawomira Pawelczyk, Anna Pazdur, Octavi Planells, Rutile Pukiene, Katja T. Rinne-Garmston, Iain Robertson, Antonio Saracino, Matthias Saurer, Gerhard H. Schleser, Kristina Seftigen, Rolf T.W. Siegwolf, Eloni Sonninen, Michel Stievenard, Elzbieta Szychowska-Krapiec, Malgorzata Szymaszek, Luigi Todaro, John S. Waterhouse, Martin Weigl-Kuska, Rosemarie B. Weigt, Rupert Wimmer, Ewan J. Woodley, Adomas Vitas, Giles Young, Neil J. Loader

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The vapor pressure deficit reflects the difference between how much moisture the atmosphere could and actually does hold, a factor that fundamentally affects evapotranspiration, ecosystem functioning, and vegetation carbon uptake. Its spatial variability and long-term trends under natural versus human-influenced climate are poorly known despite being essential for predicting future effects on natural ecosystems and human societies such as crop yield, wildfires, and health. Here we combine regionally distinct reconstructions of pre-industrial summer vapor pressure deficit variability from Europe’s largest oxygen-isotope network of tree-ring cellulose with observational records and Earth system model simulations with and without human forcing included. We demonstrate that an intensification of atmospheric drying during the recent decades across different European target regions is unprecedented in a pre-industrial context and that it is attributed to human influence with more than 98% probability. The magnitude of this trend is largest in Western and Central Europe, the Alps and Pyrenees region, and the smallest in southern Fennoscandia. In view of the extreme drought and compound events of the recent years, further atmospheric drying poses an enhanced risk to vegetation, specifically in the densely populated areas of the European temperate lowlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58–65
Number of pages18
JournalNature Geoscience
Early online date27 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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  • NOAA/WDS Paleoclimatology - European Tree-Ring Oxygen Isotope Network from 1600-2013 CE

    Treydte, K. (Creator), Liu, L. (Creator), Padrón, R. S. (Creator), Martínez-Sancho, E. (Creator), Babst, F. (Creator), Frank, D. C. (Creator), Gessler, A. (Creator), Kahmen, A. (Creator), Poulter, B. (Creator), Seneviratne, S. I. (Creator), Stegehuis, A. (Creator), Wilson, R. (Creator), Andreu-Hayles, L. (Creator), Bale, R. J. (Creator), Bednarz, Z. (Creator), Boettger, T. (Creator), Berninger, F. (Creator), Büntgen, U. (Creator), Daux, V. (Creator), Dorado-Liñán, I. (Creator), Esper, J. (Creator), Friedrich, M. (Creator), Gagen, M. H. (Creator), Grabner, M. (Creator), Grudd, H. (Creator), Gunnarsson, B. E. (Creator), Gutiérrez, E. (Creator), Hafner, P. (Creator), Haupt, M. (Creator), Hilasvouri, E. (Creator), Heinrich, I. (Creator), Helle, G. (Creator), Jalkanen, R. (Creator), Jungner, H. (Creator), Kalela-Brundin, M. (Creator), Kessler, A. (Creator), Kirchhefer, A. J. (Creator), Klesse, S. (Creator), Krapiec, M. (Creator), Levanic, T. (Creator), Leuenberger, M. (Creator), Linderholm, H. W. (Creator), McCarroll, D. (Creator), Masson-Delmotte, V. (Creator), Pawelczyk, S. (Creator), Pazdur, A. (Creator), Planells, O. (Creator), Pukiene, R. (Creator), Rinne-Garmston, K. T. (Creator), Robertson, I. (Creator), Saracino, A. (Creator), Saurer, M. (Creator), Schleser, G. H. (Creator), Seftigen, K. (Creator), Siegwolf, R. W. T. (Creator), Sonninen, E. (Creator), Stievenard, M. (Creator), Szychowska-Krapiec, E. (Creator), Szymaszek, M. (Creator), Todaro, L. (Creator), Waterhouse, J. S. (Creator), Weigl-Kuska, M. (Creator), Weigt, R. (Creator), Wimmer, R. (Creator), Woodley, E. J. (Creator), Vitas, A. (Creator), Young, G. H. F. (Creator) & Loader, N. J. (Creator), NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, 2023


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