Surface air temperature variability reconstructed with tree rings for the Gulf of Alaska over the past 1200 years

Gregory C. Wiles, Rosanne D. D'Arrigo, David Barclay, Rob S. Wilson, Stephanie K. Jarvis, Lauren Vargo, David Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


A 1200-year-long tree-ring width record from living and subfossil mountain hemlock wood is used to reconstruct February through August temperatures for the Gulf of Alaska, providing a record of past climate variability for the Northeast Pacific sector that captures interannual to centennial timescales. The moderate elevation at the tree-ring sites has allowed these trees to retain their temperature signal without evidence of the so-called divergence effect, or underestimation of tree-ring inferred temperature trends, which is observed at many northern latitude forest locations. This 'divergence-free' reconstruction reveals centennial trends that include a warm interval centered on ad 950 for coastal Alaska that occurs around the time of the 'Medieval Warm Period', a warming that is only rivaled by recent decades. Spectral analysis of this reconstruction supports the centennial pacing identified as a 170-220-year cadence consistent with solar variability. On the decadal to bidecadal scale, the reconstruction reveals ~10- and 18-year cycles, which have been observed elsewhere in climate records for western North America and are linked to solar and lunar tidal forcing, respectively. Temperature minima that occur at ad 969-970 and 1698-1700 correspond with the timing of major volcanic events. This tree-ring reconstruction supports centennial modes of solar forcing as a driver of surface air temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska, with lunar tidal, solar variability, internal variability, and volcanism, impacting climate on annual to decadal timescales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-208
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Alaska
  • North Pacific climate
  • solar forcing
  • tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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