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Nature. 2006 May 18;441(7091):329-32.

Links between annual, Milankovitch and continuum temperature variability.

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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA.


Climate variability exists at all timescales-and climatic processes are intimately coupled, so that understanding variability at any one timescale requires some understanding of the whole. Records of the Earth's surface temperature illustrate this interdependence, having a continuum of variability following a power-law scaling. But although specific modes of interannual variability are relatively well understood, the general controls on continuum variability are uncertain and usually described as purely stochastic processes. Here we show that power-law relationships of surface temperature variability scale with annual and Milankovitch-period (23,000- and 41,000-year) cycles. The annual cycle corresponds to scaling at monthly to decadal periods, while millennial and longer periods are tied to the Milankovitch cycles. Thus the annual, Milankovitch and continuum temperature variability together represent the response to deterministic insolation forcing. The identification of a deterministic control on the continuum provides insight into the mechanisms governing interannual and longer-period climate variability.


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