Nicola Scafetta sends this along, I found this figure quite interesting, but there are many more in the full PDF available below.
A regional approach to the medieval warm period and the little ice age
Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist
In order to gain knowledge of the temperature variability prior to the establishment of a widespread network of instrumental measurements c. AD 1850, we have to draw information from proxy data sensitive to temperature variations. Such data can be extracted from various natural recorders of climate variability, such as corals, fossil pollen, ice-cores, lake and marine sediments, speleothems, and tree-ring width and density, as well as from historical records (for a review, see IPCC 2007; Jones et al. 2009; NRC 2006). Considerable effort has been made during the last decade to reconstruct global or northern hemispheric temperatures for the past 1000 to 2000 years in order to place the observed 20th century warming in a long-term perspective (e.g., Briffa, 2000; Cook et al., 2004; Crowley and Lowery, 2000; D’Arrigo, 2006; Esper et al., 2002; Hegerl et al., 2007; Jones et al., 1998; Jones and Mann, 2004; Juckes et al., 2007; Ljungqvist, 2010; Loehle, 2007; Mann et al., 1999; Mann et al., 2008; Mann et al., 2009; Mann and Jones, 2003; Moberg et al., 2005; Osborn and Briffa, 2006).
Less effort has been put into investigating the key question of to what extent earlier warm periods have been as homogeneous in timing and amplitude in different geographical regions as the present warming.
It has been suggested that late-Holocene long-term temperature variations, such as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA), have been restricted to the circum-North Atlantic region (including Europe) and have not occurred synchronic in time with warm and cold periods respectively in other regions (Hughes and Diaz, 1994; Mann et al., 1999; Mann and Jones, 2003). This view has, however, been increasingly challenged through the ever growing amount of evidence of a global (or at least northern hemispheric) extent of the MWP and the LIA that have become available (see, for example, Esper and Frank, 2009; Ljungqvist, 2009, 2010; Moberg et al., 2005; Wanner et al., 2008).
A main obstacle in large-scale temperature reconstructions continues to be the limited and unevenly distributed number of quantitative palaeotemperature records extending back a millennium or more. The limited number of records have rendered it impossible to be very
selective in the choice of data. Palaeotemperature records used in a large-scale temperature reconstruction should preferably be accurately dated, have a high sample resolution and have a high correlation with the local instrumental temperature record in the calibration period (see the discussion in Jones et al., 2009).
The number of long quantitative palaeotemperature records from across the globe, of which a majority are well suited for being used in large-scale temperature reconstructions, have been rapidly increasing in recent years (Ljungqvist, 2009). Thus, it has now become possible to make regional temperature reconstructions for many regions that can help us to assess the spatio-temporal pattern and the MWP and LIA. Only by a regional approach can we truly gain an understanding of the temperature variability in the past 1–2 millennia and assess the possible occurrence of globally coherent warm and cold periods. Presently, only four regional multi-proxy temperature reconstructions exist: two for eastern Asia (Yang et al., 2002; Ge et al., 2010), one for the Arctic (Kaufman et al., 2009), and one for South America (Neukom et al., 2010). Six new quantitative regional multi-proxy temperature reconstructions will here be presented in order to improve our understanding of the regional patterns of past temperature variability.
The presently available palaeotemperature proxy data records do not support the
assumption that late 20th century temperatures exceeded those of the MWP in most regions, although it is clear that the temperatures of the last few decades exceed those of any multidecadal period in the last 700–800 years. Previous conclusions (e.g., IPCC, 2007) in the opposite direction have either been based on too few proxy records or been based on instrumental temperatures spliced to the proxy reconstructions. It is also clear that temperature changes, on centennial time-scales, occurred rather coherently in all the investigated regions – Scandinavia, Siberia, Greenland, Central Europe, China, and North
America – with data coverage to enable regional reconstructions. Large-scale patterns as the MWP, the LIA and the 20th century warming occur quite coherently in all the regional reconstructions presented here but both their relative and absolute amplitude are not always the same. Exceptional warming in the 10th century is seen in all six regional reconstructions.
Assumptions that, in particular, the MWP was restricted to the North Atlantic region can be rejected. Generally, temperature changes during the past 12 centuries in the high latitudes are larger than those in the lower latitudes and changes in annual temperatures also seem to be larger than those of warm season temperatures. In order to truly assess the possible global or hemispheric significance of the observed pattern, we need much more data. The
unevenly distributed palaeotemperature data coverage still seriously restricts our possibility to set the observed 20th century warming in a global long-term perspective and investigate the relative importance of natural and anthropogenic forcings behind the modern warming.
Full report here (PDF)