Subjects

Abstract

Solar insolation changes, resulting from long-term oscillations of orbital configurations1, are an important driver of Holocene climate2,3. The forcing is substantial over the past 2,000 years, up to four times as large as the 1.6 W m−2 net anthropogenic forcing since 1750 (ref. 4), but the trend varies considerably over time, space and with season5. Using numerous high-latitude proxy records, slow orbital changes have recently been shown6 to gradually force boreal summer temperature cooling over the common era. Here, we present new evidence based on maximum latewood density data from northern Scandinavia, indicating that this cooling trend was stronger (−0.31 °C per 1,000 years, ±0.03 °C) than previously reported, and demonstrate that this signature is missing in published tree-ring proxy records. The long-term trend now revealed in maximum latewood density data is in line with coupled general circulation models7,8 indicating albedo-driven feedback mechanisms and substantial summer cooling over the past two millennia in northern boreal and Arctic latitudes. These findings, together with the missing orbital signature in published dendrochronological records, suggest that large-scale near-surface air-temperature reconstructions9,10,11,12,13 relying on tree-ring data may underestimate pre-instrumental temperatures including warmth during Medieval and Roman times.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    Kanon der Erdbestrahlung und seine Anwendung auf das Eiszeitenproblem. (Königlich Serbische Akademie, 1941).

  2. 2.

    et al. Mid- to late Holocene climate change: An overview. Quat. Sci. Rev. 27, 1791–1828 (2008).

  3. 3.

    et al. Holocene climate variability. Quat. Res. 62, 243–255 (2004).

  4. 4.

    IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

  5. 5.

    & Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million years. Quat. Sci. Rev. 10, 297–317 (1991).

  6. 6.

    et al. Recent warming reverses long-term Arctic cooling. Science 325, 1236–1339 (2009).

  7. 7.

    , , , & Natural and anthropogenic modes of surface temperature variations in the last thousand years. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L08707 (2005).

  8. 8.

    & Evolution of the seasonal temperature cycle in a transient Holocene simulation: Orbital forcing and sea-ice. Clim. Past 7, 1139–1148 (2011).

  9. 9.

    , & Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability. Science 295, 2250–2253 (2002).

  10. 10.

    , & Adjustment for proxy number and coherence in a large-scale temperature reconstruction. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L16709 (2007).

  11. 11.

    et al. Detection of human influence on a new, validated 1500-year temperature reconstruction. J. Clim. 20, 650–666 (2007).

  12. 12.

    , & Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitations. Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 759–762 (1999).

  13. 13.

    et al. Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 13252–13257 (2008).

  14. 14.

    et al. Ensemble reconstruction constraints on the global carbon cycle sensitivity to climate. Nature 463, 527–530 (2010).

  15. 15.

    , & Synchronicity of Antarctic temperatures and local solar insolation on orbital timescales. Nature 471, 91–94 (2011).

  16. 16.

    , , & A noodle, hockey stick, and spaghetti plate: A perspective on high-resolution paleoclimatology. Wiley Interdiscipl. Rev. Clim. Change 1, (2010).

  17. 17.

    , & Climate reconstructions: Low frequency ambition and high frequency ratification. Eos 85, 113, 130 (2004).

  18. 18.

    , , , & The ‘segment length curse’ in long tree-ring chronology development for palaeoclimatic studies. Holocene 5, 229–237 (1995).

  19. 19.

    , , & Radiodensitometric-dendroclimatological conifer chronologies from Lapland (Scandinavia) and the Alps (Switzerland). Boreas 17, 559–566 (1988).

  20. 20.

    et al. Trends and uncertainties in Siberian indicators of 20th century warming. Glob. Change Biol. 16, 386–398 (2010).

  21. 21.

    et al. Trends in recent temperature and radial tree growth spanning 2000 years across northwest Eurasia. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B 363, 2269–2282 (2008).

  22. 22.

    et al. The role of oceanic forcing in mid-Holocene northern hemisphere climatic change. Paleoceanography 14, 200–210 (1999).

  23. 23.

    et al. Climate: Past ranges and future changes. Quat. Sci. Rev. 24, 2164–2166 (2005).

  24. 24.

    & Characterization and climate response patterns of a high-elevation, multi-species tree-ring network for the European Alps. Dendrochronologia 22, 107–121 (2005).

  25. 25.

    , , , & Warmer early instrumental measurements versus colder reconstructed temperatures: Shooting at a moving target. Quat. Sci. Rev. 26, 3298–3310 (2007).

  26. 26.

    , , , & Tests of the RCS method for preserving low-frequency variability in long tree-ring chronologies. Tree-Ring Res. 59, 81–98 (2003).

  27. 27.

    et al. Timing and duration of European larch growing season along an altitudinal gradient in the Swiss Alps. Tree Physiol. 30, 285–233 (2010).

  28. 28.

    , , , & The X-ray technique as applied to dendroclimatology. Tree-Ring Bull. 38, 61 (1978).

  29. 29.

    , & Evaluation of proxy-based millennial reconstruction methods. Clim. Dynam. 31, 263–281 (2008).

  30. 30.

    , & Spatial regression methods in dendroclimatology: A review and comparison of techniques. Int. J. Climatol. 14, 379–402 (1994).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank D. S. Kaufman for comments and H. Grudd for help with fieldwork. Supported by the Mainz Geocycles Research Centre and Palaeoweather Group, the European Union projects Carbo-Extreme (226701), CIRCE (36961) and ACQWA (212250), the Swiss National Science Foundation project INTEGRAL (121859), the German Science Foundation project PRIME (LU1608/1-1) and the Eva Mayr-Stihl Foundation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geography, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55099 Mainz, Germany

    • Jan Esper
    •  & Steffen Holzkämper
  2. Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

    • David C. Frank
    • , Daniel Nievergelt
    • , Anne Verstege
    •  & Ulf Büntgen
  3. Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

    • David C. Frank
    • , Daniel Nievergelt
    • , Anne Verstege
    •  & Ulf Büntgen
  4. Finnish Forest Research Institute, Rovaniemi Research Unit, 96301 Rovaniemi, Finland

    • Mauri Timonen
  5. Institute for Coastal Research, HZG Research Centre, 21494 Geesthacht, Germany

    • Eduardo Zorita
    •  & Sebastian Wagner
  6. School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9AL, Scotland, UK

    • Rob J. S. Wilson
  7. Department of Geography, Climatology, Climate Dynamics and Climate Change, Justus-Liebig University, 35390 Giessen, Germany

    • Jürg Luterbacher
  8. Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

    • Nils Fischer

Authors

  1. Search for Jan Esper in:

  2. Search for David C. Frank in:

  3. Search for Mauri Timonen in:

  4. Search for Eduardo Zorita in:

  5. Search for Rob J. S. Wilson in:

  6. Search for Jürg Luterbacher in:

  7. Search for Steffen Holzkämper in:

  8. Search for Nils Fischer in:

  9. Search for Sebastian Wagner in:

  10. Search for Daniel Nievergelt in:

  11. Search for Anne Verstege in:

  12. Search for Ulf Büntgen in:

Contributions

J.E., D.C.F., M.T., E.Z., R.J.S.W. and U.B. designed the study. Field sampling and measurements were done by J.E., D.C.F., M.T., R.J.S., U.B., D.N. and A.V. J.E., D.C.F., E.Z. and U.B. carried out the analysis with input from R.J.S., J.L., S.H., N.F. and S.W. All authors contributed to discussion, interpretation and writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jan Esper.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1589

Further reading