Spatially resolved global reconstructions of annual surface temperature patterns over the past six centuries are based on the multivariate calibration of widely distributed high-resolution proxy climate indicators. Time-dependent correlations of the reconstructions with time-series records representing changes in greenhouse-gas concentrations, solar irradiance, and volcanic aerosols suggest that each of these factors has contributed to the climate variability of the past 400 years, with greenhouse gases emerging as the dominant forcing during the twentieth century. Northern Hemisphere mean annual temperatures for three of the past eight years are warmer than any other year since (at least) ad 1400.
Access optionsAccess options
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Barnett, T. P., Santer, B., Jones, P. D., Bradley, R. S. & Briffa, K. R. Estimates of low frequency natural variability in near-surface air temperature. Holocene 6, 255–263 (1996).
Lean, J., Beer, J. & Bradley, R. S. Reconstruction of solar irradiance since 1610: Implications for climate change. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 3195–3198 (1995).
Crowley, T. J. & Kim, K. Y. Comparison of proxy records of climate change and solar forcing. Geophys. Res. Lett. 23, 359–362 (1996).
Delworth, T. D., Manabe, S. & Stouffer, R. J. Interdecadal variations of the thermohaline circulation in a coupled ocean–atmosphere model. J. Clim. 6, 1993–2011 (1993).
Mann, M. E., Park, J. & Bradley, R. S. Global interdecadal and century-scale oscillations during the past five centuries. Nature 378, 266 –270 (1995).
Bradley, R. S. & Jones, P. D. ‘Little Ice Age’ summer temperature variations: their nature and relevance to recent global warming trends. Holocene 3, 367– 376 (1993).
Hughes, M. K. & Diaz, H. F. Was there a ‘Medieval Warm Period’ and if so, where and when? Clim. Change 26, 109–142 (1994).
Diaz, H. F. & Pulwarty, R. S. An analysis of the time scales of variability in centuries-long ENSO-sensitive records in the last 1000 years. Clim. Change 26, 317–342 (1994).
Cook, E. R., Briffa, K. R., Meko, D. M., Graybill, D. A. & Funkhouser, G. The ‘segment length’ curse in long tree-ring chronology development for paleoclimatic studies. Holocene 5, 229–237 (1995).
Jones, P. D. & Briffa, K. R. Global surface air temperature variations during the 20th century: Part 1 — Spatial, temporal and seasonal details. Holocene 1, 165– 179 (1992).
Bradley, R. S. in Climatic Variations and Forcing Mechanisms of the Last 2000 Years (eds Jones, P. D., Bradley, R. S. & Jouzel, J.) 603– 624 (Springer, Berlin, 1996).
Jacoby, G. C. & D'Arrigo, R. Reconstructed Northern Hemisphere annual temperature since 1671 based on high-latitude tree-ring data from North America. Clim. Change 14, 39– 59 (1989).
Jacoby, G. C., D'Arrigo, R. D. & Tsevegyn, D. Mongolian tree rings and 20th-century warming. Science 9, 771–773 ( 1996).
Fritts, H. C., Blasing, T. J., Hayden, B. P. & Kutzbach, J. E. Multivariate techniques for specifying tree-growth and climate relationships and for reconstructing anomalies in paleoclimate. J. Appl. Meteorol. 10, 845–864 ( 1971).
Cook, E. R., Briffa, K. R. & Jones, P. D. Spatial regression methods in dendroclimatology: a review and comparison of two techniques. Int. J. Climatol. 14, 379–402 (1994).
Briffa, K. R., Jones, P. D. & Schweingruber, F. H. Tree-ring density reconstructions of summer temperature pattern across western North American since 1600. J. Clim. 5, 735–753 (1992).
Schweingruber, F. H., Briffa, K. R. & Jones, P. D. Yearly maps of summer temperatures in western Europe from A.D. 1750 to 1975 and Western North American from 1600 to 1982. Vegetatio 92, 5–71 ( 1991).
Fritts, H. Reconstructing Large-scale Climatic Patterns from Tree Ring Data (Univ. Arizona Press, Tucson, 1991).
Guiot, J. The combination of historical documents and biological data in the reconstruction of climate variations in space and time. Palaeoklimaforschung 7, 93–104 (1988).
D'Arrigo, R. D., Cook, E. R., Jacoby, G. C. & Briffa, K. R. NAO and sea surface temperature signatures in tree-ring records from the North Atlantic sector. Quat. Sci. Rev. 12, 431 –440 (1993).
Stahle, D. W. & Cleaveland, M. K. Southern Oscillation extremes reconstructed from tree rings of the Sierra Madre Occidental and southern Great Plains. J. Clim. 6, 129– 140 (1993).
Smith, T. M., Reynolds, R. W., Livezey, R. E. & Stokes, D. C. Reconstruction of historical sea surface temperatures using empirical orthogonal functions. J. Clim. 9, 1403– 1420 (1996).
Kaplan, A. et al. Analyses of global sea surface temperature 1856–1991. J. Geophys. Res. (in the press).
Halpert, M. S. & Ropelewski, C. F. Surface temperature patterns associated with the Southern Oscillation. J. Clim. 5, 577–593 ( 1992).
Preisendorfer, R. W. Principal Component Analysis in Meteorology and Oceanography (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1988).
Cane, M. et al. Twentieth-century sea surface temperature trends. Science 275, 957–960 (1997).
Hurrell, J. W. Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation, regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269, 676– 679 (1995).
Chang, P., Ji, L. & Li, H. Adecadal climate variation in the tropical Atlantic Ocean from thermodynamic air–sea interactions. Nature 385, 516–518 (1997).
Folland, C. K., Parker, D. E. & Kates, F. E. Worldwide marine temperature fluctuations 1856–1981. Nature 310, 670–673 (1984).
Kushnir, Y. Interdecadal variations in North Atlantic sea surface temperature and associated atmospheric conditions. J. Clim. 7, 141– 157 (1994).
Schlesinger, M. E. & Ramankutty, N. An oscillation in the global climate system of period 65–70 years. Nature 367, 723–726 ( 1994).
Mann, M. E. & Park, J. Global-scale modes of surface temperature variability on interannual to century timescales. J. Geophys. Res. 99, 25819–25833 ( 1994).
Mann, M. E. & Park, J. Joint spatiotemporal modes of surface temperature and sea level pressure variability in the northern hemisphere during the last century. J. Clim. 9, 2137 –2162 (1996).
Delworth, T. D., Manabe, S. & Stouffer, R. J. Multidecadal climate variability in the Greenland Sea and surrounding regions: a coupled model simulation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 24, 257–260 ( 1997).
Quinn, W. H. & Neal, V. T. in Climate Since A.D. 1500 (eds Bradley, R. S. & Jones, P. D.) 623–648 (Routledge, London, 1992).
Mann, M. E., Bradley, R. S. & Hughes, M. K. in El Niño and the Southern Oscillation: Multiscale Variability and its Impacts on Natural Ecosystems and Society (eds Diaz, H. F. & Markgraf, V.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, in the press).
Kelly, P. M., Jones, P. D. & Pengqun, J. The spatial response of the climate system to explosive volcanic eruptions. Int. J. Climatol. 16, 537–550 (1996).
Kirchner, I. & Graf, H. F. Volcanoes and El Niño: signal separation in Northern Hemisphere winter. Clim. Dyn. 11, 341–358 (1995).
Raynaud, D., Barnola, J. M., Chappellaz, J. & Martinerie, P. in Climatic Variations and Forcing Mechanisms of the Last 2000 Years (eds Jones, P. D., Bradley, R. S. & Jouzel, J.) 547– 562 (Springer, Berlin, 1996).
Bradley, R. S. & Jones, P. D. in Climate Since A.D. 1500 (eds Bradley, R. S. & Jones, P. D.) 606– 622 (Routledge, London, 1992).
Robock, A. & Free, M. P. Ice cores as an index of global volcanism from 1850 to the present. J. Geophys. Res. 100, 11549–11567 (1995).
Hegerl, G. C. et al. Multi-fingerprint detection and attribution analysis of greenhouse gas, greenhouse gas-plus-aerosol and solar forced climate change. Clim. Dyn. 13, 613–634 (1997).
North, G. R. & Stevens, M. J. Detecting climate signals in the surface temperature record. J. Clim. (in the press).
Hansen, J., Sato, M. & Ruedy, R. The missing climate forcing. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 352, 231–240 (1997).
Stevens, M. J. & North, G. R. Detection of the climate response to the solar cycle. J. Clim. (in the press).
Mann, M. E. & Lees, J. Robust estimation of background noise and signal detection in climatic time series. Clim. Change 33, 409–445 (1996).
Rind, D. & Overpeck, J. Hypothesized causes of decadal-to-century climate variability: climate model results. Quat. Sci. Rev. 12, 357–374 (1993).
Wigley, T. M. L. & Raper, S. C. B. Natural variability of the climate system and detection of the greenhouse effect. Nature 344, 324–327 ( 1990).
Thomson, D. J. Dependence of global temperatures on atmospheric CO2 and solar irradiance. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 94, 8370–8377 (1997).
Pollack, H. N. & Chapman, D. S. Underground records of changing climate. Sci. Am. 268, 44–50 (1993).
This work benefited from discussions with M. Cane, E. Cook, M. Evans, A. Kaplan and collaborators at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. We acknowledge discussions with K. Briffa, T.Crowley, P. Jones, S. Manabe, R. Saravanan and K. Trenberth, as well as the comments of G. Hegerl. We thank R.D'Arrigo, D. Fisher, G. Jacoby, J. Lean, A. Robock, D. Stahle, C. Stockton, E. Vaganov, R. Villalba and the numerous contributors to the International Tree-Ring Data Bank and other palaeoclimate researchers who have made their data available to us for use in this study; we also thank F. Keimig, M. Munro, R. Holmes and C. Aramann for their technical assistance. This work was supported by the NSF and the US Department of Energy. M.E.M. acknowledges support through the Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Postdoctoral Research Fellowship program of the Department of Energy. This work is a contribution to the NSF- and NOAA-sponsored Analysis of Rapid and Recent Climatic Change (ARRCC) project.
About this article
Climate Dynamics (2019)
Theoretical and Applied Climatology (2019)
Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy (2019)
Nature Geoscience (2018)
npj Climate and Atmospheric Science (2018)