EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The enigma of multidecadal to centennial global vs. local temperature variability in models and proxies

Thomas Laepple1,2, Oliver Bothe3, Manuel Chevalier4,5,6, Beatrice Ellerhoff7,8, Raphaël Hébert1, Annika Herbert9,10, Belen Martrat11, Eduardo Moreno Chamarro12, Kira Rehfeld7,8, Patrizia Schoch8, Nils Weitzel7,8, and Elisa Ziegler7
Thomas Laepple et al.
  • 1Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, ERC SPACE, Potsdam, Germany (
  • 2University of Bremen, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences and Faculty of Geosciences, Bremen, Germany
  • 3Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, Max-Planck-Straße 1, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany
  • 4Institute of Geosciences, Sect. Meteorology, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 20, 53121 Bonn, Germany
  • 5Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
  • 6Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, Geopolis, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 7Geo- und Umweltforschungszentrum (GUZ), Universität Tübingen, Schnarrenbergstr. 94-96, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
  • 8Institut für Umweltphysik (IUP), Universität Heidelberg, INF229, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
  • 9ARC Centre of Excellence in Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), Australia
  • 10School of Culture, History and Language, The Australian National University, HC Coombs Building, 9 Fellows Road, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
  • 11Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC), 08034 Barcelona, Spain
  • 12Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Barcelona, Spain.

Climate variability, resulting from natural radiative forcing and interactions within the climate system, is a major source of uncertainty for regional climate projections. Constraining the amplitude of these natural variations is fundamental to assess the range of plausible future scenarios. As the instrumental record is limited to the last two centuries, information about climate variations on multi-decadal to millennial timescales relies on the analysis of climate proxy records and climate model simulations. However, current results from systematic model-proxy comparisons of natural variability seem contradictory. Several studies suggest that simulated local temperature variability is consistently smaller than proxy-based reconstructions and conclude that climate models might have major deficiencies. Other studies find agreement in global temperature variability across timescales and argue that current models can faithfully simulate climate variability. 

Here, we review the evidence on the strength of natural temperature variability during recent millennia. We identify systematic biases in the reconstructions that may contribute to the model-proxy discrepancy but are likely not sufficient to reach consistency. Instead, we propose that the seemingly contradictory  findings on the (dis)agreement between proxies and simulations can be reconciled assuming that regional climate variations persist on longer time scales than currently simulated by climate models. The combined evidence argues for deficiencies in the simulation of internal variability but a faithful response of climate models to natural radiative forcing. We propose a strategy to test our hypothesis and discuss the implications for future climate projections.

How to cite: Laepple, T., Bothe, O., Chevalier, M., Ellerhoff, B., Hébert, R., Herbert, A., Martrat, B., Moreno Chamarro, E., Rehfeld, K., Schoch, P., Weitzel, N., and Ziegler, E.: The enigma of multidecadal to centennial global vs. local temperature variability in models and proxies, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-10981,, 2022.