Journal cover Journal topic
Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Clim. Past, 9, 1089-1110, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
16 May 2013
Climate of the last millennium: ensemble consistency of simulations and reconstructions
O. Bothe1,2,*, J. H. Jungclaus1, D. Zanchettin1, and E. Zorita3,4 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstr. 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
2University of Hamburg, KlimaCampus Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
3Institute for Coastal Research, Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht, Geesthacht, Germany
4Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
*now at: Leibniz Institute for Atmospheric Physics at the University of Rostock, Kühlungsborn, Germany
Abstract. Are simulations and reconstructions of past climate and its variability consistent with each other? We assess the consistency of simulations and reconstructions for the climate of the last millennium under the paradigm of a statistically indistinguishable ensemble. In this type of analysis, the null hypothesis is that reconstructions and simulations are statistically indistinguishable and, therefore, are exchangeable with each other. Ensemble consistency is assessed for Northern Hemisphere mean temperature, Central European mean temperature and for global temperature fields. Reconstructions available for these regions serve as verification data for a set of simulations of the climate of the last millennium performed at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.

Consistency is generally limited to some sub-domains and some sub-periods. Only the ensemble simulated and reconstructed annual Central European mean temperatures for the second half of the last millennium demonstrates unambiguous consistency. Furthermore, we cannot exclude consistency of an ensemble of reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperature with the simulation ensemble mean.

If we treat simulations and reconstructions as equitable hypotheses about past climate variability, the found general lack of their consistency weakens our confidence in inferences about past climate evolutions on the considered spatial and temporal scales. That is, our available estimates of past climate evolutions are on an equal footing but, as shown here, inconsistent with each other.

Citation: Bothe, O., Jungclaus, J. H., Zanchettin, D., and Zorita, E.: Climate of the last millennium: ensemble consistency of simulations and reconstructions, Clim. Past, 9, 1089-1110, doi:10.5194/cp-9-1089-2013, 2013.
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