IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

TS.6.2.4 Palaeoclimate

Robust Findings:

During the last interglacial, about 125,000 years ago, global sea level was likely 4 to 6 m higher than present, due primarily to retreat of polar ice. {6.4}

A number of past abrupt climate changes were very likely linked to changes in Atlantic Ocean circulation and affected the climate broadly across the NH. {6.4}

It is very unlikely that the Earth would naturally enter another ice age for at least 30,000 years. {6.4}

Biogeochemical and biogeophysical feedbacks have amplified climatic changes in the past. {6.4}

It is very likely that average NH temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were warmer than in any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely that this was also the warmest 50-year period in the past 1300 years. {6.6}

Palaeoclimate records indicate with high confidence that droughts lasting decades or longer were a recurrent feature of climate in several regions over the last 2000 years. {6.6}

Key Uncertainties:

Mechanisms of onset and evolution of past abrupt climate change and associated climate thresholds are not well understood. This limits confidence in the ability of climate models to simulate realistic abrupt change. {6.4}

The degree to which ice sheets retreated in the past, the rates of such change and the processes involved are not well known. {6.4}

Knowledge of climate variability over more than the last few hundred years in the SH and tropics is limited by the lack of palaeoclimatic records. {6.6}

Differing amplitudes and variability observed in available millennial-length NH temperature reconstructions, as well as the relation of these differences to choice of proxy data and statistical calibration methods, still need to be reconciled. {6.6}

The lack of extensive networks of proxy data for temperature in the last 20 years limits understanding of how such proxies respond to rapid global warming and of the influence of other environmental changes. {6.6}