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A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years

Science  08 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6124, pp. 1198-1201
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228026

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Exceptional Now

The climate has been warming since the industrial revolution, but how warm is climate now compared with the rest of the Holocene? Marcott et al. (p. 1198) constructed a record of global mean surface temperature for more than the last 11,000 years, using a variety of land- and marine-based proxy data from all around the world. The pattern of temperatures shows a rise as the world emerged from the last deglaciation, warm conditions until the middle of the Holocene, and a cooling trend over the next 5000 years that culminated around 200 years ago in the Little Ice Age. Temperatures have risen steadily since then, leaving us now with a global temperature higher than those during 90% of the entire Holocene.

Abstract

Surface temperature reconstructions of the past 1500 years suggest that recent warming is unprecedented in that time. Here we provide a broader perspective by reconstructing regional and global temperature anomalies for the past 11,300 years from 73 globally distributed records. Early Holocene (10,000 to 5000 years ago) warmth is followed by ~0.7°C cooling through the middle to late Holocene (<5000 years ago), culminating in the coolest temperatures of the Holocene during the Little Ice Age, about 200 years ago. This cooling is largely associated with ~2°C change in the North Atlantic. Current global temperatures of the past decade have not yet exceeded peak interglacial values but are warmer than during ~75% of the Holocene temperature history. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

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