Journal cover Journal topic
Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/cp-2017-29
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
30 Mar 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).
Spatio-temporal variability of Arctic summer temperatures over the past two millennia: an overview of the last major climate anomalies
Johannes P. Werner1, Dmitry V. Divine2,3, Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist4,5, Tine Nilsen3, and Pierre Francus6,7 1Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research and Department for Earth Science, University of Bergen, P.O. Box 7803, N-5020 Bergen, Norway
2Norwegian Polar Institute, FRAM Centre, N-9296 Tromsø, Norway
3Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway, N-9037, Norway
4Department of History, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
5Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
6Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique Centre – Eau Terre Environnement 490 rue de la couronne, Québec, QC G1K 9A9, Canada
7GEOTOP Research Center, Montréal, Canada
Abstract. In this article, the first spatially resolved millennium-long summer (June–August) temperature reconstruction over the Arctic and Subarctic domain (north of 60° N) is presented. It is based on a set of 54 annually dated temperature sensitive proxy archives of various types, mainly from the updated and revised PAGES2k database supplemented with 6 new recently published proxy records. As a major novelty, an extension of the Bayesian BARCAST climate field (CF) reconstruction technique provides a means to treat climate archives with dating uncertainties. In total 1400 realisations of the temperature CF were generated, enabling further analyses to be carried out in a probabilistic framework. The new seasonal CF reconstruction for the Arctic region can be shown to be skilful for the majority of the terrestrial nodes. The decrease in the proxy data density back in time however limits the analyses in the spatial domain to the period after 750 CE, while the spatially averaged reconstruction covers the entire time interval of 1–2002 CE. The analysis of basic features of the reconstructed seasonal CF focuses on the regional expression of past major climate anomalies in order to uncover the potential of the new product for studying Common Era temperature variability in the region.

The long-term, centennial to millennial, evolution of the reconstructed temperature is in good agreement with a general pattern that was inferred in recent studies for the Arctic and its sub-regions. On the pan-Arctic scale the reconstruction shows a cooling trend which is, however, statistically insignificant and the estimated magnitude of the millennial scale cooling is three times smaller than inferred in the previous studies. The trend is spatially heterogeneous and for some regions such as Greenland the reconstruction demonstrates a tendency to the warming instead. The reconstruction shows a pronounced Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA, here, ca. ~ 960–1060 CE), which was characterised by a sequence of extremely warm decades over the whole domain. The medieval warming was followed by a gradual cooling into the Little Ice Age (LIA), with 1580–1680 CE as the longest centennial-scale cold period, culminating around 1812–1822 CE for most of the target region. At the same time there is evidence for a drastic reduction in sea-ice on the Greenland shelf, which is reflected by rather high summer temperatures over Greenland and Baffin Island during that decade.

During the MCA, the contrast between reconstructed summer temperatures over mid- and high-latitudes in Europe and the European/North Atlantic sector of the Arctic shows a very dynamic expression of the Arctic amplification, with leads and lags between continental and more marine and extreme latitude settings. While our analysis shows that the peak MCA summer temperatures were as high as in the late 20th and early 21st century, the spatial coherence of extreme years over the last decades seems unprecedented at least back until 750 CE. However, statistical testing could not provide conclusive support of the contemporary warming to supersede the peak of the MCA in terms of the pan-Arctic mean summer temperatures.


Citation: Werner, J. P., Divine, D. V., Charpentier Ljungqvist, F., Nilsen, T., and Francus, P.: Spatio-temporal variability of Arctic summer temperatures over the past two millennia: an overview of the last major climate anomalies, Clim. Past Discuss., doi:10.5194/cp-2017-29, in review, 2017.
Johannes P. Werner et al.
Johannes P. Werner et al.
Johannes P. Werner et al.

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