Pollen-based continental climate reconstructions at 6 and 21 ka: A global synthesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Subfossil pollen and plant macrofossil data derived from 14 C-dated sediment profiles can provide quantitative information on glacial and interglacial climates. The data allow climate variables related to growing-season warmth, winter cold, and plant-available moisture to be reconstructed. Continental-scale reconstructions have been made for the mid-Holocene (MH, around 6 ka) and Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, around 21 ka), allowing comparison with palaeoclimate simulations currently being carried out as part of the fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The synthesis of the available MH and LGM climate reconstructions and their uncertainties, obtained using modern-analogue, regression and model-inversion techniques, is presented for four temperature variables and two moisture variables. Reconstructions of the same variables based on surface-pollen assemblages are shown to be accurate and unbiased. Reconstructed LGM and MH climate anomaly patterns are coherent, consistent between variables, and robust with respect to the choice of technique. They support a conceptual model of the controls of Late Quaternary climate change whereby the first-order effects of orbital variations and greenhouse forcing on the seasonal cycle of temperature are predictably modified by responses of the atmospheric circulation and surface energy balance.


  • P. J. Bartlein
  • S. P. Harrison
  • S. Brewer
  • S. Connor
  • B. A.S. Davis
  • K. Gajewski
  • J. Guiot
  • T. I. Harrison-Prentice
  • A. Henderson
  • O. Peyron
  • I. C. Prentice
  • M. Scholze
  • H. Seppä
  • B. Shuman
  • S. Sugita
  • R. S. Thompson
  • A. E. Viau
  • J. Williams
  • H. Wu
External organisations
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Wyoming
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • University of Ottawa
  • Cerege - European Centre Research And Teaching In Geosciences De L'envi
  • GTZ, Policy Advise for Environment and Climate Protection (PAKLIM)
  • University of Minnesota system
  • University of Franche-Comté
  • University of Helsinki
  • Tallinn University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • University of Algarve, Portugal
  • Macquarie University, Sydney
  • US Geological Survey, Denver
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Climate Research
  • Physical Geography


  • Climate model evaluation, Last glacial maximum, Mid-Holocene, Palaeovegetation palaeoclimate reconstructions, Plant macrofossils, Pollen, Reconstruction uncertainties
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-802
Number of pages28
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes