Climate Dynamics

, Volume 25, Issue 2–3, pp 141–153 | Cite as

A 1052-year tree-ring proxy for Alpine summer temperatures

  • Ulf BüntgenEmail author
  • Jan Esper
  • David C. Frank
  • Kurt Nicolussi
  • Martin Schmidhalter


A June–August Alpine temperature proxy series is developed back to AD 951 using 1,527 ring-width measurements from living trees and relict wood. The reconstruction is composed of larch data from four Alpine valleys in Switzerland and pine data from the western Austrian Alps. These regions are situated in high elevation Alpine environments where a spatially homogenous summer temperature signal exists. In an attempt to capture the full frequency range of summer temperatures over the past millennium, from inter-annual to multi-centennial scales, the regional curve standardization technique is applied to the ring width measurements. Correlations of 0.65 and 0.86 after decadal smoothing, with high elevation meteorological stations since 1864 indicate an optimal response of the RCS chronology to June–August mean temperatures. The proxy record reveals warm conditions from before AD 1000 into the thirteenth century, followed by a prolonged cool period, reaching minimum values in the 1820s, and a warming trend into the twentieth century. This latter trend and the higher frequency variations compare well with the actual high elevation temperature record. The new central Alpine proxy suggests that summer temperatures during the last decade are unprecedented over the past millennium. It also reveals significant similarities at inter-decadal to multi-centennial frequencies with large-scale temperature reconstructions, however, deviating during certain periods from H.H. Lamb‘s European/North Atlantic temperature history.


Express Population Signal Regional Curve Standardization Regional Chronology Composite Chronology Late Maunder Minimum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the archaeological department Graubünden (M. Seifert) for providing tree-ring data, R. Böhm, J. Luterbacher and C. Casty for instrumental and multi-proxy data; and K. Treydte, R.J.S. Wilson and two anonymous reviewers for comments. Supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NCCR Climate) and the European Union Project ALP-IMP (BBW 01.0498–1). K. Nicolussi supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF-project P15828).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulf Büntgen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jan Esper
    • 1
  • David C. Frank
    • 1
  • Kurt Nicolussi
    • 2
  • Martin Schmidhalter
    • 3
  1. 1.Swiss Federal Research Institute WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute for High Mountain ResearchInnsbruckAustria
  3. 3.Dendrolabor ValaisBrigSwitzerland

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