Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp 1225–1241

Circulation background of climate patterns in the past millennium: Uncertainty analysis and re-reconstruction of ENSO-like state


DOI: 10.1007/s11430-015-5256-6

Cite this article as:
Tan, M. Sci. China Earth Sci. (2016) 59: 1225. doi:10.1007/s11430-015-5256-6


The question of whether or not global warming has paused since more than ten years ago, namely “warming hiatus”, has attracted the attention of climate science community including the IPCC. Some authors have attributed the “warming hiatus” to the internal changes in the climate system, i.e., the recombination of ocean-atmosphere circulations. Therefore, it is necessary to propose higher requirements on reconstructing circulation background of climate change for the past millennium. However, the analyses of changes in atmospheric circulation over the last millennium as well as the conclusions of related regional climate patterns are so widely different and contradictory, bringing uncertainties to our understanding of regional even global climate change to a great extent. On the other hand, in the last 10 years the high-precision U/Th-dated stalagmite oxygen isotope ratio (δ18O) sequences provided an accurate chronological frame for the paleoclimate study of the middle and late Pleistocene, in which all authors from China took the Chinese stalagmite δ18O as the summer monsoon index without exception. However, this point of view misleads the climate scientists into thinking that the stalagmite δ18O can be as the proxy of precipitation amount. Nevertheless, it is well known that all of these records have a lot in common in the low frequency trend. However, most sequences cannot be calibrated by instrumental precipitation records, and thus the uncertainty of the climate research framework of China and even of the world has increased. Therefore, it is imperative for climatology to clarify the origin of contradiction and to reduce the uncertainty as early as possible. On the basis of analyzing the significance of stalagmite δ18O in the monsoon regions of China, the author tries to propose a new circulation proxy in this paper: integrating the Chinese stalagmite oxygen isotope sequence to reconstruct the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature gradient, i.e., the large-scale ENSO-like state over the past millennium. Furthermore, the author speculates that it was warm in the modern times and the Medieval Period, but the circulation recombination was different in both periods. And this inference could be supported by the longer record since Last Glacial Maximum. In other words, the attribution analysis of the identical low-frequency trends of Chinese stalagmite δ18O on a large scale shows that the ENSO-like state controls the climate change in the monsoon regions of China at different time scales (from interannual to century or even longer time scales). Wherein the important connection of circulations is the western Pacific subtropical high (WPSH), that is to say, besides the interannual and decadal time scales, the WPSH would possess the circulation mode on longer timescales. For example, we may discuss the change of the WPSH in the whole Holocene epoch, i.e., the half precession period. These discussions could make sense to the study of not only the paleoclimate but also the modern climate.


The past millennium ENSO Circulation background Climate pattern WPSH Stalagmite δ18Circulation recombination 

Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Cenozoic Geology and Environment, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina