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The Danube Pontoon Bridge of Pest-Buda (1767-1849) as an Indicator and Victim of the Climate Change of the Little Ice Age

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Traffic began flowing over the pontoon bridge connecting Pest and Buda in 1767. The pontoon bridge was rebuilt many times in the course of its 82-year history. During the winter months it could not be used because of ice flows on the river. The history of the bridge’s use is relatively well documented, with contemporary newspapers reporting regularly on events connected to the pontoon bridge’s use. The bridge was dismantled at the onset of lasting cold weather and the appearance of ice on the river and only replaced after the annual thaw. We can describe the duration of cold weather in the winter impacting on the disintegration and rebuilding of the pontoon bridge as an ‘outer winter’ and the duration the Danube was frozen, the long cold period, as an ‘inner winter’. As the two cases complement each other in several aspects, use was also made of new reports concerning the pontoon bridge in Pozsony (now Bratislava, Slovakia) in addition to the data from the pontoon bridge of Pest-Buda. The winters of the last decade of the eighteenth and first decade of the nineteenth century were unusually mild and it is certain that the Danube did not freeze up on eleven occasions in two decades. However, from the 1810s, ice-free winters became extraordinarily rare and it is clearly visible that a new climatic regime had got underway. The transitional period fell in the 1810s as the centre of gravity of last big cooling period of the Little Ice Age, based on the mean temperature of winters, started from the middle of the 1820s and ended in the mid-1840s in the Carpathian Basin.
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Keywords: Climate history; Danube River; Little Ice Age; Pest-Buda; environmental history

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2016

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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