Article | Published:

Early onset of industrial-era warming across the oceans and continents

Nature volume 536, pages 411418 (25 August 2016) | Download Citation

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 10 May 2017

Abstract

The evolution of industrial-era warming across the continents and oceans provides a context for future climate change and is important for determining climate sensitivity and the processes that control regional warming. Here we use post-ad 1500 palaeoclimate records to show that sustained industrial-era warming of the tropical oceans first developed during the mid-nineteenth century and was nearly synchronous with Northern Hemisphere continental warming. The early onset of sustained, significant warming in palaeoclimate records and model simulations suggests that greenhouse forcing of industrial-era warming commenced as early as the mid-nineteenth century and included an enhanced equatorial ocean response mechanism. The development of Southern Hemisphere warming is delayed in reconstructions, but this apparent delay is not reproduced in climate simulations. Our findings imply that instrumental records are too short to comprehensively assess anthropogenic climate change and that, in some regions, about 180 years of industrial-era warming has already caused surface temperatures to emerge above pre-industrial values, even when taking natural variability into account.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the many scientists who made their published palaeoclimate datasets available via public data repositories. This work developed out of the PAGES (Past Global Changes) Ocean2k working group; we are grateful to K. Anchukaitis, H. Wu, C. Giry, D. Oppo and V. Ersek for their contributions to the Ocean2k syntheses, to the more than 75 volunteers who constructed the Ocean2k phase 1 metadatabase14,15, and to K. Anchukaitis and V. Trouet for discussions. We thank P. Petrelli, F. Klein and A. Schurer for assistance in obtaining model datasets, and K. McGregor for editorial assistance. We acknowledge support from PAGES funded by the US and Swiss National Science Foundations (NSF) and NOAA, and thank T. Kiefer, M.-F. Loutre and the PAGES 2k Network Coordinators for organizational support. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. The US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support for CMIP and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. N.J.A. is supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) QEII fellowship awarded under DP110101161 and this work contributes to ARC Discovery Project DP140102059 (N.J.A., M.A.J.C.) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (N.J.A., S.J.P., J.G.). H.V.M. is supported by ARC Future Fellowship FT140100286 and acknowledges funding from ARC Discovery Project DP1092945 (H.M.V., S.J.P.). We acknowledge fellowship support from a CSIC-Ramón y Cajal post-doctoral programme RYC-2013-14073 (B.M.), a Clare Hall College Cambridge Shackleton Fellowship (B.M.), and an ARC DECRA fellowship DE130100668 (J.G.). We acknowledge research support from US NSF grant OCE1536249 (M.N.E.), the ARC Special Research Initiative for the Antarctic Gateway Partnership (Project ID SR140300001; S.J.P.), Red CONSOLIDER GRACCIE CTM2014-59111-REDC (B.M.), Swiss NSF grant PZ00P2_154802 (R.N.), the Danish Council for Independent Research, Natural Science OCEANHEAT project 12-126709/FNU (M.-S.S.), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41273083; K.S.) and Shanghai Fund (2013SH012; K.S.). This is University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science contribution 5206.

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Affiliations

  1. Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia

    • Nerilie J. Abram
  2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia

    • Nerilie J. Abram
  3. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia

    • Helen V. McGregor
  4. University of Arizona, Department of Geosciences, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Jessica E. Tierney
  5. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

    • Jessica E. Tierney
  6. Department of Geology and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA

    • Michael N. Evans
  7. School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, USA

    • Nicholas P. McKay
    •  & Darrell S. Kaufman
  8. Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78758, USA

    • Kaustubh Thirumalai
  9. Department of Environmental Chemistry, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDÆA), Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), 08034 Barcelona, Spain

    • Belen Martrat
  10. Department of Earth Sciences, Downing Street, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK

    • Belen Martrat
  11. Earth and Life Institute, Université de Louvain, Place pasteur 3, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

    • Hugues Goosse
  12. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • Steven J. Phipps
  13. Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • Steven J. Phipps
  14. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia

    • Steven J. Phipps
  15. School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3FE, UK

    • Eric J. Steig
  16. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195 USA

    • Eric J. Steig
  17. Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Solomons, Maryland 20688, USA

    • K. Halimeda Kilbourne
  18. Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

    • Casey P. Saenger
  19. Curtin University of Technology, Department of Environment and Agriculture, Bentley, Western Australia 6845, Australia

    • Jens Zinke
  20. Australian Institute of Marine Science, 39 Fairway, Nedlands, Western Australia 6009, Australia

    • Jens Zinke
  21. Institute of Geological Sciences, Section Palaeontology, Freie Universität Berlin, Malteserstrasse 74-100, 12249 Berlin, Germany

    • Jens Zinke
  22. Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Coll France, CEREGE, 13545 Aix-en-Provence, France

    • Guillaume Leduc
  23. US Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, MS 910, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

    • Jason A. Addison
  24. Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) and Department of Geography, Bellaterra 08193, Spain

    • P. Graham Mortyn
  25. Centre for Past Climate Studies and Arctic Research Centre, Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, Hoegh-Guldbergs Gade 2, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

    • Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz
  26. Sorbonne Universités (UPMC, Université Paris 06)-CNRS-IRD-MNHN, LOCEAN Laboratory, 4 place Jussieu, F-75005 Paris, France

    • Marie-Alexandrine Sicre
  27. State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science and Department of Geological Oceanography, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361102, China

    • Kandasamy Selvaraj
  28. Department of Geology, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden

    • Helena L. Filipsson
  29. Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research and Institute of Geography, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

    • Raphael Neukom
  30. School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

    • Joelle Gergis
  31. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

    • Joelle Gergis
  32. Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia

    • Mark A. J. Curran
  33. PAGES International Project Office, Falkenplatz 16, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

    • Lucien von Gunten

Consortia

  1. the PAGES 2k Consortium

Authors

  1. Search for Nerilie J. Abram in:

  2. Search for Helen V. McGregor in:

  3. Search for Jessica E. Tierney in:

  4. Search for Michael N. Evans in:

  5. Search for Nicholas P. McKay in:

  6. Search for Darrell S. Kaufman in:

Contributions

N.J.A. designed the study with input from H.V.M., J.E.T., M.N.E., N.P.M. and D.S.K. The palaeoclimate data and model analysis was led by N.J.A. with assistance provided by R.N., K.T., B.M., H.G., S.J.P. and E.J.S.; R.N. and J.G. produced the terrestrial Australasia 2k reconstruction; N.J.A., J.E.T., M.N.E., K.H.K., C.P.S. and J.Z. contributed expertise on the high-resolution marine database and reconstructions; H.V.M., M.N.E., B.M., K.T., G.L., J.A.A., P.G.M., M.-S.S., M.-A.S., K.S. and H.L.F. contributed expertise on the moderate-resolution marine database; H.G., S.J.P. and N.J.A. contributed expertise on climate model output, and N.P.M., D.S.K., R.N., E.J.S., J.G., M.A.J.C. and L.v.G. contributed expertise on the terrestrial databases and reconstructions. All authors contributed to discussions that shaped the study and the manuscript. N.J.A. led the writing with contributions from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nerilie J. Abram.

The data and code needed to reproduce the results are available at the World Data Service for Paleoclimatology (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/study/20083).

Reviewer Information Nature thanks Z. Liu, T. Watanabe and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Extended data

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Figures

    This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-3.

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Tables

    This file contains the data for Supplementary Table 1.

Videos

  1. 1.

    Century-scale temperature trends for the continent and tropical ocean reconstruction regions since 1500CE

    Trends represent 100-year linear trends, stepped by 1 year. Year in top label gives the starting year for the linear 100y trend and indicator bar below map shows the time-span of the 100-year trends. Trends that are non-significant (p>0.1) are masked in grey. The century-scale trends shown in the animation are used to examine the distribution of regional temperature trends before and after 1800CE (Fig. 2b, Table 1).

About this article

Publication history

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19082

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