Fragility of reconstructed temperature patterns over the Common Era: Implications for model evaluation

Jianghao Wang, Julien Emile-Geay, Dominique Guillot, Nicholas P. McKay, Bala Rajaratnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Climate field reconstructions(CFRs) enable spatially resolved estimates of past climates, providing important insights about climate variability over the Common Era. In particular, a reconstructed "La Niña-like" pattern during the transition from the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) to the Little Ice Age has been widely tied to medieval droughts in southwest North America. This pattern is now used as a key benchmark for global climate model simulations of the last millennium, which have yet to reproduce it. Here we test the pattern's robustness by using four different CFR methods and two proxy networks. With the older network, we find the reconstructed patterns to be highly method-dependent, with the La Niña-like pattern not reproduced by two of the CFR methodologies. With the updated proxy network, a globally uniform MCA emerges with all methods, in agreement with simulations from the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project Phase 3 ensemble. Our results caution against drawing dynamical interpretations from a single CFR and affirm the importance of developing CFRs through improved statistical methodology and community-driven proxy syntheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7162-7170
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 16 2015


  • climate field reconstruction
  • global temperature reconstruction
  • paleoclimate data-model comparison
  • robustness of CFR patterns
  • statistical model assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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