Abstract

The principal results of studies on historical climate change from A.D. 1000 to the present in China are reviewed. The studies are based on analysis of local annals and court records. After discussing the methodology of transferring descriptive accounts into quantitative estimates of past climates, we summarize the main results, which are generally substantiated by multiple lines of evidence: 1) There were significant historical climate fluctuations in China, with a range of about 1.0°–1.5°C in recent centuries. 2) Significant decadal-scale warm fluctuations occurred during a cool interval broadly correlative with the Little Ice Age. 3) There was an increased frequency of both droughts and floods in some pans of China during the Little Ice Age. Increased frequencies of dust storms accompanied the dry phases of the cool periods. 4) The spatial pattern of some Little Ice Age precipitation changes appears to reflect a modified development of different phases of the summer monsoon. 5) As suggested by recent GCM studies, enhanced Little Ice Age aridity may be due to increased winter snow cover causing temperature and soil moisture feedbacks the following spun 6) Although there is some agreement between climate change in China and elsewhere, there are also indications that significant lap occur between the timing and direction of climate change in different regions. This pattern appears different from the warming trend of the past century, which is more uniform in both hemispheres.

This content is only available as a PDF.