Climatic Change

, Volume 107, Issue 3–4, pp 593–613 | Cite as

Extensive glaciers in northwest North America during Medieval time



The Medieval Warm Period is an interval of purportedly warm climate during the early part of the past millennium. The duration, areal extent, and even existence of the Medieval Warm Period have been debated; in some areas the climate of this interval appears to have been affected more by changes in precipitation than in temperature. Here, we provide new evidence showing that several glaciers in western North America advanced during Medieval time and that some glaciers achieved extents similar to those at the peak of the Little Ice Age, many hundred years later. The advances cannot be reconciled with a climate similar to that of the twentieth century, which has been argued to be an analog, and likely were the result of increased winter precipitation due to prolonged La Niña-like conditions that, in turn, may be linked to elevated solar activity. Changes in solar output may initiate a response in the tropical Pacific that directly impacts the El Niño/Southern Oscillation and associated North Pacific teleconnections.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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