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2021-09-09 08:30:46

Devastating extreme weather is making architects across the world rethink their designs, but long before humans affected the climate, natural weather patterns were already making people tinker with their buildings.

A study published in the academic journal Science Advances on Wednesday describes how Chinese people changed how they constructed roofs according to shifting 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 events led to steeper roofs that did not accumulate as much snow. During warmer eras, roofs were more gently sloped, in part to save on materials and labor. Roofs were the most costly part of a building in ancient China, according to the paper.

“When people discovered that it’s often the steeper eaves that remain intact when heavy snow crushed parts of the houses, they would naturally see the importance and opt for more sloped eaves during reconstruction,” Ding Aijun, professor of atmospheric environment at Nanjing University and a lead author of the study, told Sixth Tone.

The studied period includes two natural swings 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 have also spurred innovation, the scientists write. At around the year 1700, when a new cold era began, a revolution in roof design emerged, allowing for easier construction of steeper and straighter roofs.

The intensity of extreme weather today and in the future calls for more aggressive adaptation methods, Ding said. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, climate change is intensifying across every region on the globe.

In China, scientists have concluded that temperatures have been increasing faster than the global average over the past few decades, with extreme weather events becoming more frequent.

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

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: People Visual)