Climate change in the North Pacific region over the past three centuries

Abstract

The relatively short length of most instrumental climate records restricts the study of climate variability1,2, and it is therefore essential to extend the record into the past with the help of proxy data. Only since the late 1940s have atmospheric data been available3 that are sufficient in quality and spatial resolution to identify the dominant patterns of climate variability, such as the Pacific North America pattern4,5 and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation6. Here we present a 301-year snow accumulation record from an ice core at a height of 5,340 m above sea level—from Mount Logan, in northwestern North America. This record shows features that are closely linked with the Pacific North America pattern for the period of instrumental data availability. Our record extends back in time to cover the period from the closing stages of the Little Ice Age to the warmest decade in the past millennium7. We find a positive, accelerating trend in snow accumulation after the middle of the nineteenth century. This trend is paralleled by a warming over northwestern North America which has been associated with secular changes in both the Pacific North America pattern and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

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Figure 1: Annual snow accumulation (m water equivalent) at the Mount Logan site 1700–2000.
Figure 2: Trend in the winter mean (January, February, March) surface temperature field from the HADCRUTv data set.
Figure 3: Regression of winter mean (January, February, March) fields from the NCEP re-analysis against the Mount Logan annual snow-accumulation time series 1948–2000.

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Acknowledgements

The Mount Logan time series update was supported by the International Arctic Research Center, Fairbanks, the Geological Survey of Canada, the National Institute of Polar Research, Tokyo, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. G.H. thanks M.N. Demuth, K. Supeene, E.J. Steig and S. Rupper for assistance in acquiring and analysing the ice core. The NCEP reanalysis data was provided by the Climate Diagnostics Center of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The HADCRUTv data was provided by the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

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Correspondence to G. W. K. Moore.

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Moore, G., Holdsworth, G. & Alverson, K. Climate change in the North Pacific region over the past three centuries. Nature 420, 401–403 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01229

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