How Ancient Roofs Reflect Climate Change

Devastating extreme weather is causing architects around the world to rethink their designs, but long before humans affected the climate, natural weather patterns caused people to tinker with their buildings.

A study published in the scientific journal Science Advances on Wednesday describes how Chinese people changed the way they built roofs according to changing weather patterns between the years 750 and 1750.

Using reconstructed climate data, the team — led by researchers from Nanjing University in eastern China — found that increases in extreme snowfall led to steeper roofs that didn’t accumulate as much snow. During warmer times, roofs sloped more gently, in part to save material and labor. According to the newspaper, roofs were the most expensive part of a building in ancient China.

The period studied includes two natural fluctuations in the climate known as the Little Ice Age and the medieval warm period. Both were recorded in Europe but likely affected large parts of the world.

Changing weather patterns may also have spurred innovation, the scientists write. Around the year 1700, as a new cold era began, there was a revolution in roof design, making it easier to build steeper and straighter roofs.

Noting how the intensity of extreme weather events is “often underestimated,” the authors urge greater attention and resources to adapt modern homes. “We are facing an escalated anthropogenic climate change,” the scientists write in the paper.

According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is increasing around the world any region in the world.

In China, scientists have concluded that temperatures have risen faster than the global average in recent decades, and that extreme weather events have become more frequent.

This summer, historically heavy rains caused massive flooding in central China’s Henan and Hubei provinces, killing more than 300 people.

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Image header: People Visual)

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