Review

The Evolution of Climate Over the Last Millennium

Science  27 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5517, pp. 662-667
DOI: 10.1126/science.1059126

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Abstract

Knowledge of past climate variability is crucial for understanding and modeling current and future climate trends. This article reviews present knowledge of changes in temperatures and two major circulation features—El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)—over much of the last 1000 years, mainly on the basis of high-resolution paleoclimate records. Average temperatures during the last three decades were likely the warmest of the last millennium, about 0.2°C warmer than during warm periods in the 11th and 12th centuries. The 20th century experienced the strongest warming trend of the millennium (about 0.6°C per century). Some recent changes in ENSO may have been unique since 1800, whereas the recent trend to more positive NAO values may have occurred several times since 1500. Uncertainties will only be reduced through more extensive spatial sampling of diverse proxy climatic records.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: p.jones{at}uea.ac.uk

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