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Arctic hydroclimate variability during the last 2000 years – current understanding and research challenges

Review article
Authors Hans W. Linderholm
Marie Nicolle
Pierre Francus
Konrad Gajewski
Samuli Helama
Atte Korhola
Olga Solomina
Zicheng Yu
Peng Zhang
William J. D’Andrea
Maxime Debret
Dmitry V. Divine
Björn E. Gunnarson
Neil J. Loader
Nicolas Massei
Kristina Seftigen
Elizabeth K. Thomas
Johannes Werner
Sofia Andersson
Annika Berntsson
Tomi P. Luoto
Liisa Nevalainen
Saija Saarni
Minna Väliranta
Published in Climate of the Past
Volume 14
Pages 473-514
ISSN 1814-9324
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 473-514
Language en
Subject categories Climate Research


Reanalysis data show an increasing trend in Arctic precipitation over the 20th century, but changes are not homogenous across seasons or space. The observed hydroclimate changes are expected to continue and possibly accelerate in the coming century, not only affecting pan-Arctic natural ecosystems and human activities, but also lower latitudes through the atmospheric and ocean circulations. However, a lack of spatiotemporal observational data makes reliable quantification of Arctic hydroclimate change difficult, especially in a long-term context. To understand Arctic hydroclimate and its variability prior to the instrumental record, climate proxy records are needed. The purpose of this review is to summarise the current understanding of Arctic hydroclimate during the past 2000 years. First, the paper reviews the main natural archives and proxies used to infer past hydroclimate variations in this remote region and outlines the difficulty of disentangling the moisture from the temperature signal in these records. Second, a comparison of two sets of hydroclimate records covering the Common Era from two data-rich regions, North America and Fennoscan-dia, reveals inter- and intra-regional differences. Third, building on earlier work, this paper shows the potential for providing a high-resolution hydroclimate reconstruction for the Arctic and a comparison with last-millennium simulations from fully coupled climate models. In general, hydroclimate proxies and simulations indicate that the Medieval Climate Anomaly tends to have been wetter than the Little Ice Age (LIA), but there are large regional differences. However, the regional coverage of the proxy data is inadequate, with distinct data gaps in most of Eurasia and parts of North America, making robust assessments for the whole Arctic impossible at present. To fully assess pan-Arctic hydroclimate variability for the last 2 millennia, additional proxy records are required.

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