Climate Science and Paleoclimatology

  • G. Cornelis van Kooten


Although individual instrumental records from various places in North America and Europe are examined to determine trends, including the identification of the warmest and coldest years in the records, the main focus of this chapter is on proxy records. Proxy temperature records are constructed from tree ring, ice core and other paleoclimatic data using statistical methods that link the proxies to observed (instrumental) temperature data. The statistical methods are briefly discussed. Climate scientists use the proxy temperature reconstructions to show that global average temperatures remained constant for upwards of two millennia before rising dramatically beginning in the twentieth century – the temperature reconstructions effectively eliminate the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age or relegate them to local phenomena. This reconstruction became known as the hockey stick, with the long-run period of constant temperatures constituting the shaft and the recent dramatic upturn the blade of the stick. Along with a similar trend in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the hockey stick is the key empirical evidence of global warming used by the IPCC. The criticism and defense of the hockey stick graph are discussed in detail, as are some of the other issues regarding the use of instrumental and proxy temperature reconstructions.


Tree Ring Tree Ring Width Climate Research Unit Climate Scientist Temperature Reconstruction 
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.


  1. Anderegg, W. R. L., Prall, J. W., Harold, J., & Schneider, S. H. (2010). Expert credibility in climate change. PNAS, 107(27), 12107–12109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aufhammer, M., Wright, B., & Yoo, S. J. (2010). Specification and estimation of the transfer function in Paleoclimatic reconstructions. Paper presented at the Fourth World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economists, Montreal, QC.Google Scholar
  3. Bray, D., & von Storch, H. (2007). The perspectives of climate scientists on global climate change. GKSS 2007-11. Retrieved February 15, 2010, from
  4. Briffa, K. R. (2000). Annual climate variability in the Holocene: Interpreting the message of ancient trees. Quaternary Science Reviews, 19(1–5), 87–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Briffa, K. R., Jones, P. D., Schweingruber, F. H., Karlén, W., & Shiyatov, S. G. (1996). Tree-ring variables as proxy-climate indicators: Problems with low-frequency signals. In R. D. Jones, R. S. Bradley, & J. Jouzel (Eds.), Climatic variations and forcing mechanisms of the last 2,000 years (pp. 9–41). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Briffa, K. R., Jones, P. D., Schweingruber, F. H., & Osborn, T. J. (1998). Influence of volcanic eruptions on northern hemisphere summer temperature over the past 600 years. Nature, 393(6684), 450–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Briffa, K. R., Osborn, T. J., Schweingruber, F. H., Harris, I. C., Jones, P. D., Shiyatov, S. G., & Vaganov, E. A. (2001). Low-frequency temperature variations from a northern tree-ring density network. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 106(D3), 2929–2941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Briffa, K. R., Shishov, V. V., Melvin, T. M., Vaganov, E. A., Grudd, H., Hantemirov, R. M., Eronen, M., & Naurzbaev, M. M. (2008). Trends in recent temperature and radial tree growth spanning 2000 years across Northwest Eurasia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1501), 2271–2284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  10. Fagan, B. M. (2000). The little ice age. How climate made history 1300–1850. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Fagan, B. M. (2008). The great warming. Climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations. New York: Bloomsbury Press.Google Scholar
  12. Ge, Q.-S., Zheng, J. Y., Hao, Z.-X., Shao, X.-M., Wang, W.-C., & Luterbacher, J. (2010). Temperature variation through 2000 years in China: An uncertainty analysis of reconstruction and regional difference. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L03703. doi: 10.1029/2009GL041281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gerondeau, C. (2010). Climate: The great delusion: A study of the climatic, economic and political unrealities. London: Stacey International.Google Scholar
  14. Goddard, S. (2011). The hottest year on record? SPPI reprint series (20 pp). Retrieved February 15, 2011, from
  15. Graybill, D. A., & Idso, S. B. (1993). Detecting the aerial fertilization effect atmospheric CO2 enrichment in tree-ring chronologies. Global Biochemical Cycles, 7(1), 81–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hansen, J. E., Ruedy, R., Sato, M., & Lo, K. (2010). Global surface temperature change. Reviews of Geophysics, 48, RG4004. doi: 10.1029/2010RG000345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Huang, S. P., Pollack, H. N., & Shen, P.-Y. (2008). A late quaternary climate reconstruction based on borehole heat flux data, borehole temperature data and the instrumental record. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L13703. doi: 10.1029/2008GL034187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Idso, C., & Singer, S. F. (2009). Climate change reconsidered: 2009 report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Chicago: The Heartland Institute.Google Scholar
  19. IPCC. (1990). First assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. IPCC WGI. (2001). Climate change 2001. The scientific basis. Working group I contribution to the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. IPCC WGI. (2007). Climate change 2007. The physical science basis. Working group I contribution to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Jones, P. D., Briffa, K. R., Barnett, T. P., & Tett, S. F. B. (1998). High-resolution palaeoclimatic records for the last millennium: Interpretation, integration and comparison with general circulation model control-run temperatures. The Holocene, 8(4), 455–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jones, P. D., Parker, D. E., Osborn, T. J., & Briffa, K. R. (2010). Global and hemispheric temperature anomalies - Land and marine instrumental records. Trends: A compendium of data on global change. From
  24. Khim, B.-K., Yoon, H. I., Kang, C. Y., & Bahk, J. J. (2002). Unstable climate oscillations during the late Holocene in the Eastern Bransfield Basin, Antarctic Peninsula. Quaternary Research, 58(3), 234–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ladurie, E. L. (1971). Times of feast, times of famine . A history of climate since the year 1000 (B. Bray, Trans.). London: George Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  26. Leijonhufvud, L., Wilson, R., Moberg, A., Söderberg, J., Retsö, D., & Söderlind, U. (2010). Five centuries of Stockholm winter/spring temperatures reconstructed from documentary evidence and instrumental observations. Climatic Change, 101(1–2), 109–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2009). Super freakonomics: Global cooling, patriotic prostitutes, and why suicide bombers should buy life insurance. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  28. Ljungqvist, F. C. (2009). Temperature proxy records covering the last two millennia: A tabular and visual overview. Geografiska Annaler, Series A, Physical Geography, 91(1), 11–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Loehle, C. (2007). A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-tree-ring proxies. Energy and Environment, 18(7), 1049–1058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lomborg, B. (2007). Cool it. The skeptical environmentalist’s guide to global warming. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  31. Mann, M. E. (1998). A study of ocean-atmosphere interaction and low-frequency variability of the climate system. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Faculty of the Graduate School, Yale University.Google Scholar
  32. Mann, M. E., Bradley, R. E., & Hughes, M. K. (1998). Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries. Nature, 392(6678), 779–787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mann, M. E., Bradley, R. E., & Hughes, M. K. (1999). Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties and limitations. Geophysical Research Letters, 26(6), 759–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mann, M. E., Zhang, Z., Hughes, M. K., Bradley, R. E., Miller, S. K., Rutherford, S., & Ni, F. (2008). Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia. PNAS, 105(36), 13252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McIntyre, S., & McKitrick, R. (2003). Corrections to the Mann et al. (1998) Proxy data base and Northern hemisphere average temperature series. Energy and Environment, 14(6), 751–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McIntyre, S., & McKitrick, R. (2005a). Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance. Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L03710. doi: 10.1029/2004GL021750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McIntyre, S., & McKitrick, R. (2005b). The M&M critique of MBH98 Northern hemisphere climate index: Update and implications. Energy and Environment, 16(1), 69–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McIntyre, S., & McKitrick, R. (2009). Proxy inconsistency and other problems in millennial paleoclimate reconstructions. PNAS, 106(6), E10. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812509106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McKitrick, R. (2010, February 26). Evidence submitted to the independent climate change email review (ICCER), Sir M. Russell, Chairman (80 pp). Retrieved April 15, 2010, from
  40. McMullen, C. P., & Jabbour, J. (Eds.). (2009). Climate change 2009. Science compendium. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme.Google Scholar
  41. McShane, B. B., & Wyner, A. J. (2011). A statistical analysis of multiple temperature proxies: Are reconstructions of surface temperatures over the last 1000 years reliable? Annals of Applied Statistics, 5(1), 5–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Montford, A. W. (2010). The hockey stick illusion: Climate and the corruption of science. London: Stacey International.Google Scholar
  43. Nelson, R. H. (2010). The new holy wars: Economic religion versus environmental religion in contemporary America. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Nova, I. J. (2010). ClimateGate: Thirty years in the making. Retrieved February 9, 2010, from
  45. Oreskes, N. (2004, December 3). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, 306(5702), 1686.Google Scholar
  46. Osborn, T. J., & Briffa, K. R. (2006). Spatial extent of warm and cold conditions over the northern hemisphere since 800 AD. IGBP PAGES/World Data Center for Paleoclimatology Data Contribution Series #2006-009. Boulder: NOAA/NCDC Paleoclimatology Program.Google Scholar
  47. Pielke, R. A., Sr., Davey, C. A., Niyogi, D., Fall, S., Steinweg-Woods, J., Hubbard, K., Lin, X., Cai, M., Lim, Y.-K., Li, H., Nielsen-Gammon, J., Gallo, K., Hale, R., Mahmood, R., Foster, S., McNider, R. T., & Blanken, P. (2007). Unresolved issues with the assessment of multidecadal global land surface temperature trends. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, D24S08. doi: 10.1029/2006JD008229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Plimer, I. (2009). Heaven & earth. Global warming: The missing science. Ballan: Connor Court Publishing.Google Scholar
  49. Ran, L., Jiang, H., Knudsen, K. L., & Eiriksson, J. (2011). Diatom-based reconstruction of Palaeoceanographic changes on the North Icelandic Shelf during the last millennium. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 302(1–2), 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schulte, K.-M. (2008). Scientific consensus on climate change? Energy & Environment, 19(2), 281–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schweingruber, F. H., & Briffa, K. R. (1996). Tree-ring density networks for climatic reconstruction. In P. D. Jones & R. S. Bradley (Eds.), Climatic variations and forcing mechanisms (NATO Series, Vol. I 41). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  52. Sussman, B. (2010). Climategate. A veteran meteorologist exposes the global warming scam. New York: WND Books.Google Scholar
  53. U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. (2010). ‘Consensus’ exposed: The CRU controversy (84 pp). Retrieved April 15, 2010, from
  54. Vinther, B. M., Andersen, K. K., Jones, P. D., Briffa, K. R., & Cappelen, J. (2006). Extending Greenland temperature records into the late eighteenth century. Journal of Geophysical Research, 111, D11105. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vinther, B. M., Jones, P. D., Briffa, K. R., Clausen, H. B., Andersen, K. K., Dahl-Jensen, D., & Johnsen, S. J. (2010). Climatic signals in multiple highly resolved stable isotope records from Greenland. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29(3–4), 522–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wahl, E. R., & Ammann, C. M. (2007). Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures: Examination of criticisms based on the nature & processing of proxy climate evidence. Climatic Change, 85, 33–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wahl, E. R., Ritson, D. M., & Ammann, C. M. (2006). Comment on “Reconstructing past climate from noisy data”. Science, 312(5773), 529. doi: 10.1123/science.1120866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wanliss, J. (2010). Green dragon: Dominion not death. Burke: Cornwall Alliance.Google Scholar
  59. Wegman, E. J., Scott, D. W., & Said, Y. H. (2006). Ad hoc committee report on the ‘Hockey Stick’ global climate reconstruction. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Cornelis van Kooten
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations