The Historical Development of Large-Scale Paleoclimate Field Reconstructions Over the Common Era

Jason E. Smerdon*, Edward R. Cook, Nathan J. Steiger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Climate field reconstructions (CFRs) combine modern observational data with paleoclimatic proxies to estimate climate variables over spatiotemporal grids during time periods when widespread observations of climatic conditions do not exist. The Common Era (CE) has been a period over which many seasonally- and annually-resolved CFRs have been produced on regional to global scales. CFRs over the CE were first produced in the 1970s using dendroclimatic records and linear regression-based approaches. Since that time, many new CFRs have been produced using a wide range of proxy data sets and reconstruction techniques. We assess the early history of research on CFRs for the CE, which provides context for our review of advances in CFR research over the last two decades. We review efforts to derive gridded hydroclimatic CFRs over continental regions using networks of tree-ring proxies. We subsequently explore work to produce hemispheric- and global-scale CFRs of surface temperature using multi-proxy data sets, before specifically reviewing recently-developed data assimilation techniques and how they have been used to produce simultaneous reconstructions of multiple climatic fields globally. We then review efforts to develop standardized and digitized databases of proxy networks for use in CFR research, before concluding with some thoughts on important next steps for CFR development.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2022RG000782
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors.


  • Common Era
  • climate field reconstructions
  • data assimilation
  • last millennium
  • paleoclimate
  • proxy


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