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Modes of climate variability: Synthesis and review of proxy-based reconstructions through the Holocene

Hernández, Armand; Martin-Puertas, Celia; Moffa-Sánchez, Paola; Moreno-Chamarro, Eduardo; Ortega, Pablo; Blockley, Simon; Cobb, Kim M.; Comas-Bru, Laia; Giralt, Santiago; Goosse, Hugues; Luterbacher, Jürg; Martrat, Belen; Muscheler, Raimund; Parnell, Andrew; Pla-Rabes, Sergi; Sjolte, Jesper; Scaife, Adam A.; Swingedouw, Didier; Wise, Erika; Xu, Guobao

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Armand Hernández

Celia Martin-Puertas

Eduardo Moreno-Chamarro

Pablo Ortega

Simon Blockley

Kim M. Cobb

Laia Comas-Bru

Santiago Giralt

Hugues Goosse

Jürg Luterbacher

Belen Martrat

Raimund Muscheler

Andrew Parnell

Sergi Pla-Rabes

Jesper Sjolte

Adam A. Scaife

Didier Swingedouw

Erika Wise

Guobao Xu


Modes of climate variability affect global and regional climates on different spatio-temporal scales, and they have important impacts on human activities and ecosystems. As these modes are a useful tool for simplifying the understanding of the climate system, it is crucial that we gain improved knowledge of their long-term past evolution and interactions over time to contextualise their present and future behaviour. We review the literature focused on proxy-based reconstructions of modes of climate variability during the Holocene (i.e., the last 11.7 thousand years) with a special emphasis on i) proxy-based reconstruction methods; ii) available proxy-based reconstructions of the main modes of variability, i.e., El Niño Southern Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Variability, Atlantic Multidecadal Variability, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Southern Annular Mode and the Indian Ocean Dipole; iii) major interactions between these modes; and iv) external forcing mechanisms related to the evolution of these modes. This review shows that modes of variability can be reconstructed using proxy-based records from a wide range of natural archives, but these reconstructions are scarce beyond the last millennium, partly due to the lack of robust chronologies with reduced dating uncertainties, technical issues related to proxy calibration, and difficulty elucidating their stationary impact (or not) on regional climates over time. While for each mode the available reconstructions tend to agree at mutidecadal timescales, they show notable disagreement on shorter timescales beyond the instrumental period. The reviewed evidence suggests that the intrinsic variability of modes can be modulated by external forcing, such as orbital, solar, volcanic, and anthropogenic forcing. The review also highlights some modes experience higher variability over the instrumental period, which is partly ascribed to anthropogenic forcing. These features stress the paramount importance of further studying their past variations using long climate-proxy records for the progress of climate science.


Hernández, A., Martin-Puertas, C., Moffa-Sánchez, P., Moreno-Chamarro, E., Ortega, P., Blockley, S., …Xu, G. (2020). Modes of climate variability: Synthesis and review of proxy-based reconstructions through the Holocene. Earth-Science Reviews, 209, Article 103286.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 8, 2020
Online Publication Date Jul 15, 2020
Publication Date 2020-10
Deposit Date Jul 17, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 15, 2021
Journal Earth-Science Reviews
Print ISSN 0012-8252
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 209
Article Number 103286


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