Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 23 February 2006

Abstract

A number of reconstructions of millennial-scale climate variability have been carried out in order to understand patterns of natural climate variability, on decade to century timescales, and the role of anthropogenic forcing1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. These reconstructions have mainly used tree-ring data and other data sets of annual to decadal resolution. Lake and ocean sediments have a lower time resolution, but provide climate information at multicentennial timescales that may not be captured by tree-ring data9,10. Here we reconstruct Northern Hemisphere temperatures for the past 2,000 years by combining low-resolution proxies with tree-ring data, using a wavelet transform technique11 to achieve timescale-dependent processing of the data. Our reconstruction shows larger multicentennial variability than most previous multi-proxy reconstructions1,2,3,4,7, but agrees well with temperatures reconstructed from borehole measurements12 and with temperatures obtained with a general circulation model13,14. According to our reconstruction, high temperatures—similar to those observed in the twentieth century before 1990—occurred around ad 1000 to 1100, and minimum temperatures that are about 0.7 K below the average of 1961–90 occurred around ad 1600. This large natural variability in the past suggests an important role of natural multicentennial variability that is likely to continue.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Locations of proxy data sites.
Figure 2: Estimations of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature variations.

References

  1. Mann, M. E., Bradley, R. S. & Hughes, M. K. Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries. Nature 392, 779–787 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Mann, M. E., Bradley, R. S. & Hughes, M. K. Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitations. Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 759–762 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Jones, P. D., Briffa, K. R., Barnett, T. P. & Tett, S. F. B. High-resolution palaeoclimatic records for the last millennium: interpretation, integration and comparison with General Circulation Model control-run temperatures. Holocene 8, 455–471 (1998)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Crowley, T. J. & Lowery, T. S. How warm was the Medieval warm period? Ambio 29, 51–54 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Briffa, K. R. Annual climate variability in the Holocene: interpreting the message of ancient trees. Quat. Sci. Rev. 19, 87–105 (2000)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Esper, J., Cook, E. R. & Schweingruber, F. H. Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability. Science 295, 2250–2253 (2002)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Mann, M. E. & Jones, P. D. Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 1820, doi:10.1029/2003GL017814 (2003)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Jones, P. D. & Mann, M. E. Climate over past millennia. Rev. Geophys. 42, doi:10.1029/2003RG000143 (2004)

  9. Bradley, R. S. Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary (Academic, San Diego, 1999)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Esper, J., Frank, D. C. & Wilson, R. J. S. Climate reconstructions: Low-frequency ambition and high-frequency ratification. Eos 85, 113 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Mallat, S. A Wavelet Tour of Signal Processing (Academic, San Diego, 1999)

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  12. Pollack, H. N. & Smerdon, J. E. Borehole climate reconstructions: Spatial structure and hemispheric averages. J. Geophys. Res. 109, doi:10.1029/2003JD004163 (2004)

  13. González-Rouco, F., von Storch, H. & Zorita, E. Deep soil temperature as a proxy for surface air-temperature in a coupled model simulation of the last thousand years. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 2116, doi:10.1029/2003GL018264 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. von Storch, H. et al. Reconstructing past climate from noisy proxy data. Science 306, 679–682 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (IPCC, Geneva, 2001)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Briffa, K. R. et al. Low-frequency temperature variations from a northern tree ring density network. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 2929–2941 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 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 palaeoclimatic studies. Holocene 5, 229–237 (1995)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Jones, P. D., Osborn, T. J. & Briffa, K. R. Estimating sampling errors in large-scale temperature averages. J. Clim. 10, 2548–2568 (1997)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Jones, P. D. & Moberg, A. Hemispheric and large-scale surface air temperature variations: An extensive revision and an update to 2001. J. Clim. 16, 206–223 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Crowley, T. J. Causes of climate change over the past 1000 years. Science 289, 270–277 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Shindell, D. T., Schmidt, G. A., Mann, M. E., Rind, D. & Waple, A. Solar forcing of regional climate change during the Maunder Minimum. Science 294, 2149–2152 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Bauer, E., Claussen, M., Brovkin, V. & Huenerbein, A. Assessing climate forcings of the Earth system for the past millennium. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 1276, doi:10.1029/2002GL016639 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Bertrand, C., Loutre, M.-F., Crucifix, M. & Berger, A. Climate of the last millennium: a sensitivity study. Tellus A 54, 221–244 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Shindell, D. T., Schmidt, G. A., Miller, R. L. & Mann, M. E. Volcanic and solar forcing of climate change during the Maunder Minimum. J. Clim. 16, 4094–4107 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Zorita, E. et al. Climate evolution in the last five centuries simulated by an atmosphere-ocean model: global temperatures, the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Late Maunder Minimum. Meteorol. Z. 13, 271–289 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Legutke, S. & Voss, R. The Hamburg Atmosphere-Ocean Coupled Circulation Model ECHO-G (Technical Report 18, Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum, Hamburg, 1999)

    Google Scholar 

  27. Widmann, M. & Tett, S. F. B. Simulating the climate in the last millennium. PAGES News 11(2&3), 21–23 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Mann, M. E. & Rutherford, S. Climate reconstruction using ‘Pseudoproxies’. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 1501, doi:10.1029/2001GL014554 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Zorita, E., González-Rouco, F. & Legutke, S. Testing the Mann et al. 1998 approach to paleoclimate reconstructions in the context of a 1000-yr control simulation with the ECHO-G coupled climate model. J. Clim. 16, 1378–1390 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Stott, P. A. et al. External control of 20th century temperature by natural and anthropogenic forcings. Science 290, 2133–2137 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank H. von Storch, E. Zorita and F. González-Rouco for the ECHO-G data, and H. Pollack and J. Smerdon for borehole data. All these persons and J. Esper, J. Luterbacher and M. Rummukainen are thanked for comments on early versions of the manuscript. We acknowledge financial support from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Swedish Science Council and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anders Moberg.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Notes

Details about proxy data series used, with reference list. (DOC 45 kb)

Supplementary Methods

Description of the methods for estimation of the uncertainties in the reconstruction. (DOC 117 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

Time series plots of low-resolution proxy data series. (PDF 111 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

Time series plots of tree-ring series. (PDF 91 kb)

Supplementary Figure 3

Time series plot of low-frequency component of the uncalibrated reconstruction, with jack-knifed estimates and associated 95% confidence intervals for the mean. (PDF 161 kb)

Supplementary Data

Data for the NH temperature reconstruction. (DOC 266 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Moberg, A., Sonechkin, D., Holmgren, K. et al. Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data. Nature 433, 613–617 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03265

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03265

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing