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They say that Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burnt — but now research suggests that the Romans lit so many fires that the resulting pollution cooled Europe.
Researchers estimated the amount of air pollution, including soot and organic carbon particles, that would have been produced by the ancient Empire.
Effect - Air - Pollution - Climate - Time
From this they found that the dominant cooling effect of air pollution would have lowered the European climate of the time by 0.3°F (0.17°C).
But the decrease would have been more than countered by the warm climate at this period of time.
Experts - Climate - Change
Experts also claim it is dwarfed by modern man-made climate change.
Nevertheless, the researchers said, the study adds to the evidence that shows how human activity has been altering the natural climate for millennia.
Anina - Gilgen - ETH - Zurich - Switzerland
Anina Gilgen of ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and her colleagues estimated the impact of the air pollution produced by the Roman Empire on the climate of Europe.
'We looked for the first time at whether anthropogenic aerosol impacts had an impact on climate a long time ago,' Ms Gilgen told the New Scientist.
Researchers - Studies - Land - Romans - Farms
Researchers used existing studies of how much land the Romans used for farms, homes and other purposes to estimate the amount of air pollution the empire would have created and then factored this in to a model of European climate at the time.
They found that while deforestation and greenhouse gas release had a modest warming effect of up to 0.27°F (0.15°C), air pollution had a stronger cooling effect.
Lead - Temperature - Drop - Europe - Ms
This lead to an overall average temperature drop of around 0.3°F (0.17°C), cooling Europe down to 32.3 (0.46°C), Ms Gilgen and colleagues estimated.
'The novelty here is in their thinking about what the [Roman's] aerosol contribution would be, which seems to be quite considerable,' said Joy Singarayer, a past climate expert at the University of Reading who was not involved in this study.
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