Reconstructing Climate from Glaciers

Andrew N. Mackintosh, Brian M. Anderson, Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Glaciers offer the potential to reconstruct past climate over timescales from decades to millennia. They are found on nearly every continent, and at the Last Glacial Maximum, glaciers were larger in all regions on Earth. The physics of glacier-climate interaction are relatively well understood, and glacier models can be used to reconstruct past climate from geological evidence of past glacier extent. This can lead to significant insights regarding past, present, and future climate. For example, glacier modeling has demonstrated that the near-ubiquitous global pattern of glacier retreat during the last few centuries resulted from a global-scale climate warming of ∼1°C, consistent with instrumental data and climate proxy records. Climate reconstructions from glaciers have also demonstrated that the tropics were colder at the Last Glacial Maximum than was originally inferred from sea surface temperature reconstructions. Future efforts to reconstruct climate from glaciers may provide new constraints on climate sensitivity to CO2 forcing, polar amplification of climate change, and more.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-680
Number of pages32
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate
  • Glaciers
  • Modeling
  • Moraines
  • Paleoclimate
  • Proxy

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