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Pre-industrial reference period

The climate of pre-industrial times is described in a global context using the average temperature for the period 1850–1900.


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During this period, there was no evidence of any influence of human activity on the climate, and the mean temperature of the period was not significantly influenced by external factors such as solar or volcanic activity. In order to be able to ascertain the degree of human influence on the climate since the beginning of industrialisation, the temperature trend is compared to this pre-industrial reference period.

For Switzerland, the period of 1871–1900 is used as the pre-industrial reference period, as observation data are only available for the whole country from 1864 onwards. In terms of the mean temperature, the difference between this and the global reference period of 1850–1900 is very small and has no impact on the observed warming. Thanks to the establishment of a pre-industrial reference period for Switzerland, it is possible to put the country’s overall temperature development into a global context. Moreover, it allows the historic development to be combined with the climate change scenarios for the future.

Film explaining how temperature developments in Switzerland can be compared to global developments thanks to the pre-industrial reference period, making it possible to predict future climate change © MeteoSwiss