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Globally resolved surface temperatures since the Last Glacial Maximum

Abstract

Climate changes across the past 24,000 years provide key insights into Earth system responses to external forcing. Climate model simulations1,2 and proxy data3,4,5,6,7,8 have independently allowed for study of this crucial interval; however, they have at times yielded disparate conclusions. Here, we leverage both types of information using paleoclimate data assimilation9,10 to produce the first proxy-constrained, full-field reanalysis of surface temperature change spanning the Last Glacial Maximum to present at 200-year resolution. We demonstrate that temperature variability across the past 24 thousand years was linked to two primary climatic mechanisms: radiative forcing from ice sheets and greenhouse gases; and a superposition of changes in the ocean overturning circulation and seasonal insolation. In contrast with previous proxy-based reconstructions6,7 our results show that global mean temperature has slightly but steadily warmed, by ~0.5 °C, since the early Holocene (around 9 thousand years ago). When compared with recent temperature changes11, our reanalysis indicates that both the rate and magnitude of modern warming are unusual relative to the changes of the past 24 thousand years.

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Fig. 1: Locations and temporal coverage of the SST proxies.
Fig. 2: Global mean surface temperature change over the past 24 kyr.
Fig. 3: Leading modes of LGM-to-present surface temperature variability.
Fig. 4: Comparison of LGM-to-present surface temperature reconstructions.
Fig. 5: Contextualizing rates of modern warming.

Data availability

All LGMR and associated proxy data are publicly available via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Paleoclimatology Data Archive (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/study/33112). Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The MATLAB code used for the reconstruction (DASH) are publicly available (https://github.com/JonKing93/DASH), as are all accompanying Bayesian proxy forward models (BAYSPAR, BAYSPLINE, BAYFOX, and BAYMAG) used in this study (https://github.com/jesstierney). The iCESM1.2 model code is available at https://github.com/NCAR/iCESM1.2.

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Acknowledgements

We thank B. Malevich for early discussions and explorations on LGM-to-present data assimilation, and M. Fox and N. Rapp for help in compiling the proxy data. We thank P. DiNezio for providing initial and boundary condition files for the CESM simulations, and B. Markle for assistance in compiling and sharing the ice core water isotope data. This study was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant numbers AGS-1602301 and AGS-1602223, and Heising-Simons Foundation grant numbers 2016-012, 2016-014 and 2016-015. The CESM project is supported primarily by the NSF. This material is based on work supported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is a major facility sponsored by the NSF under Cooperative Agreement No. 1852977. Computing and data storage resources, including the Cheyenne supercomputer (https://doi.org/10.5065/D6RX99HX), were provided by the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL) at NCAR.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

M.B.O. conducted the data assimilation, led the analysis and interpretation of the results, and designed the figures. M.B.O. and J.E.T. led the writing of this paper. J.E.T. led the proxy data compilation. J.K. wrote the DASH code, based on methods and input by R.T. and G.J.H. J.Z. and C.J.P. planned and conducted the iCESM simulations. All authors contributed to the design of the study and the writing of this manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthew B. Osman.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature thanks William Gray and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Time resolution and temporal coverage of the SST proxy data compilation.

a, Histogram of record resolution (denoting the median sample resolution for each record), computed for each proxy type. b, Histogram of record length for each proxy type.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Statistical validation of randomly withheld marine geochemical proxies.

a, From left: observed versus forward-modelled δ18Oc mean values for each site using the posterior data assimilation estimates. Shown at right are the associated median R2validation scores (each based on n = ~100 LGMR ensemble members), computed on a per-site basis (see Methods section “Internal and external validation testing”). bd, As in a, but for \({\text{U}}_{37}^{\text{K'}}\) (b), Mg/Ca (c) and TEX86 (d), respectively.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Validation using independent δ18Op ice core and speleothem records.

a, 3 ka–preindustrial (PI; 0 ka) posterior ∆δ18Op field; overlying markers show the observed 3 ka–PI ∆δ18Op values from speleothems and ice cores. Only records spanning at least 18 of the past 24 kyr are shown. ∆R2 and ∆RMSEP values denote the change in observed versus posterior assimilated ∆δ18Op values relative to the prior (that is, iCESM) estimated values. bh, As in a, but for values differenced at 6, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 21 ka versus the PI, respectively. I, All observed ∆δ18Op versus model prior values; dashed line indicates the 1:1 relationship. j, All observed ∆δ18Op versus posterior values, which show a strong improvement in ∆R2 and ∆RMSEP over the prior. Note that each scatter point shown in panels i, j corresponds to an external validation site shown in panels ah.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Time-comparison of posterior LGMR δ18Op with selected δ18Op ice core and speleothem records.

Uncertainty ranges denote the ±1σ level (dark) and 95% confidence range (light) from the LGMR ensemble. Also shown for comparison are the full range (shaded grey) and median iCESM time slice prior values (50-year means) for each site. See also Extended Data Table 2.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Influences on global surface temperature evolution during the past 24 kyr.

ac, Spatial LGM-to-present correlations between surface air temperature (SAT) and combined greenhouse gas24 and global albedo radiative forcing13 (a); summer length at 65°S;27 (b); and the –1 × 231Pa/230Th AMOC proxy index from Bermuda Rise29,30,31 (c; shown such that SAT correlations are positive with AMOC strength).

Extended Data Fig. 6 Proxy-specific GMST reconstructions and comparison of Holocene GMST trends.

a, δ18Oc, \({\text{U}}_{37}^{\text{K'}}\), and Mg/Ca-derived GMST reconstructions, derived using both the proxy-only (PO) and data assimilation (DA) approaches. In a, the shaded regions show the ±1σ range across n = 50 ensemble members for the DA-based GMST estimates, and n = 10,000 realizations for the PO-based GMST estimates (note uncertainty ranges are not shown for the dotted-dashed curves). b, Sensitivity of the Holocene GMST evolution to the removal of proxies situated in contiguous 15° latitudinal bands, both for the PO and DA approaches. c, Sensitivity of the DA-based Holocene GMST evolution to proxy seasonality (computed by fixing foraminifera growth seasonality to either preindustrial (PI) or LGM monthly SSTs for Mg/Ca and δ18Oc, or by removing records with seasonal alkenone production for \({\text{U}}_{37}^{\text{K'}}\)), and to the ‘pooled’ foraminifera species SST calibrations of refs. 20,21 (see Supplementary Information). All ∆GMST time series denote deviations relative to the past 2 kyr.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Hemispheric variability during the past 24 kyr.

Ensemble distribution (n = 500) of LGMR-estimated Northern Hemisphere (NH; red) and Southern Hemisphere (SH; blue) mean hemispheric temperatures during the past 24 kyr. Shown at top is the surface temperature spatial difference for the Bølling–Allerød (BA) and Younger Dryas (YD) intervals. Range of hemispheric last deglacial and interglacial onset timings are shown as histograms at bottom. The LGMR is plotted alongside reconstructed decadal hemispheric temperatures from the last millennium reanalysis v2.117 and HadCRUT5 observational product11.

Extended Data Table 1 Information on the iCESM simulations used for generating model priors
Extended Data Table 2 Geographical and site identification information for ice core and speleothem δ18Op records used for LGMR external validation
Extended Data Table 3 External validation statistics associated with different choices of covariance localization and the 1σ ‘length-scale’ range of the evolving prior sampling

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Osman, M.B., Tierney, J.E., Zhu, J. et al. Globally resolved surface temperatures since the Last Glacial Maximum. Nature 599, 239–244 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03984-4

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