Reconstructing Climatic and Environmental Changes of the Past 1000 Years: A Reappraisal

The 1000-year climatic and environmental history of the Earth contained in various proxy records is examined. As indicators, the proxies duly represent or record aspects of local climate. Questions on the relevance and validity of the locality paradigm for climatological research become sharper as studies of climatic changes on timescales of 50–100 years or longer are pursued. This is because thermal and dynamical constraints imposed by local geography become increasingly important as the air-sea-land interaction and coupling timescales increase. Because the nature of the various proxy climate indicators are so different, the results cannot be combined into a simple hemispheric or global quantitative composite. However, considered as an ensemble of individual observations, an assemblage of the local representations of climate establishes the reality of both the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period as climatic anomalies with world-wide imprints, extending earlier results by Bryson et al. (1963), Lamb (1965), and numerous other research efforts. Furthermore, these individual proxies are used to determine whether the 20th century is the warmest century of the 2nd Millennium at a variety of globally dispersed locations. Many records reveal that the 20th century is likely not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium, although it is clear that human activity has significantly impacted some local environments.

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