The evolution of climate over the last millennium

P. D. Jones, T. J. Osborn, K. R. Briffa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

469 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge of past climate variability is crucial for understanding and modeling current and future climate trends. This article reviews present knowledge of changes in temperatures and two major circulation features—El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)—over much of the last 1000 years, mainly on the basis of high-resolution paleoclimate records. Average temperatures during the last three decades were likely the warmest of the last millennium, about 0.2°C warmer than during warm periods in the 11th and 12th centuries. The 20th century experienced the strongest warming trend of the millennium (about 0.6°C per century). Some recent changes in ENSO may have been unique since 1800, whereas the recent trend to more positive NAO values may have occurred several times since 1500. Uncertainties will only be reduced through more extensive spatial sampling of diverse proxy climatic records.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-667
Number of pages6
Issue number5517
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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