Rethinking the Holocene temperature conundrum

Helen Essell, Jan Esper, Heinz Wanner, Ulf Büntgen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Recent scholarship argues for more research to resolve the ‘Holocene temperature
conundrum’, an apparent discrepancy between decreasing proxy-reconstructed and increasing
model-simulated long-term temperature trends during the late Holocene. Here, we argue that the
observed proxy–model offset likely results from inappropriate comparisons of different seasonal
and spatial signals in the reconstructed and simulated palaeo-data. Since proxy archives have been
used to reconstruct global annual mean temperatures, they have been compared against model
simulations of the same seasonal and spatial domains. However, we suggest that most of the proxybased large-scale reconstructions are biased towards Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures,
and as such model comparisons have predominantly focused on the wrong target data. Further to
advancing our understanding of long-term temperature trends, we recommend prioritising the
refinement of proxy networks and climate reconstructions to preserve the full spectrum of naturally forced, interannual to multi-millennial variations needed to contextualise recent anthropogenic changes against past Holocene ranges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-64
Number of pages4
JournalClimate Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2024


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