Climatic Change

, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 241–285

Tropical Pacific – mid-latitude teleconnections in medieval times


    • Hydrologic Research Center
    • Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Malcolm K. Hughes
    • University of Arizona
  • Caspar M. Ammann
    • National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Kim M. Cobb
    • Georgia Technical Institute
  • Martin P. Hoerling
    • NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center
  • Douglas J. Kennett
    • University of Oregon
  • James P. Kennett
    • University of California Santa Barbara
  • Bert Rein
    • Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
  • Lowell Stott
    • University of Southern California
  • Peter E. Wigand
    • University of Nevada
    • California State University
  • Taiyi Xu
    • NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-007-9239-2

Cite this article as:
Graham, N.E., Hughes, M.K., Ammann, C.M. et al. Climatic Change (2007) 83: 241. doi:10.1007/s10584-007-9239-2


Terrestrial and marine late Holocene proxy records from the western and central US suggest that climate between approximately 500 and 1350 a.d. was marked by generally arid conditions with episodes of severe centennial-scale drought, elevated incidence of wild fire, cool sea surface temperatures (SSTs) along the California coast, and dune mobilization in the western plains. This Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) was followed by wetter conditions and warming coastal SSTs during the transition into the “Little Ice Age” (LIA). Proxy records from the tropical Pacific Ocean show contemporaneous changes indicating cool central and eastern tropical Pacific SSTs during the MCA, with warmer than modern temperatures in the western equatorial Pacific. This pattern of mid-latitude and tropical climate conditions is consistent with the hypothesis that the dry MCA in the western US resulted (at least in part) from tropically forced changes in winter NH circulation patterns like those associated with modern La Niña episodes. We examine this hypothesis, and present other analyses showing that the imprint of MCA climate change appears in proxy records from widely distributed regions around the planet, and in many cases is consistent with a cool medieval tropical Pacific. One example, explored with numerical model results, is the suggestion of increased westerlies and warmer winter temperatures over northern Europe during medieval times. An analog technique for the combined use of proxy records and model results, Proxy Surrogate Reconstruction (PSR), is introduced.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007