High-frequency climate forcing causes prolonged cold periods in the Holocene.

by E. van Dijk et al., May 08 2024, in Nature (OPEN ACCESS)


Understanding climate variability across interannual to centennial timescales is critical, as it encompasses the natural range of climate fluctuations that early human agricultural societies had to adapt to. Deviations from the long-term mean climate are often associated with both societal collapse and periods of prosperity and expansion. Here, we show that contrary to what global paleoproxy reconstructions suggest, the mid to late-Holocene was not a period of climate stability. We use mid- to late-Holocene Earth System Model simulations, forced by state-of-the-art reconstructions of external climate forcing to show that eleven long-lasting cold periods occurred in the Northern Hemisphere during the past 8000 years. These periods correlate with enhanced volcanic activity, where the clustering of volcanic eruptions induced a prolonged cooling effect through gradual ocean-sea ice feedback. These findings challenge the prevailing notion of the Holocene as a period characterized by climate stability, as portrayed in multi-proxy climate reconstructions. Instead, our simulations provide an improved representation of amplitude and timing of temperature variations on sub-centennial timescales.