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Even after more than a century of coordinated monitoring, instrumental weather observations are still too short to adequately constrain decadal or multidecadal behavior in the Earth’s climate system. Leading climatologists and climate modelers have called for the wider application of high-resolution proxy records to decadal variability and prediction studies, and our community has responded by producing new paleoclimate products that specifically target this type of ‘intermediate-term’ behavior. But we now also know our medium changes that message: the biological and geological systems that encode climate information into natural archives often also alter the original ‘input’, usually due to either seasonal filtering or non-climatic persistence. In this talk, we’ll discuss some of the challenges inherent to the use of high-resolution proxies to study decadal or multi-decadal climate variability, and suggest strategies that might clarify how climate acts on those timescales. And we’ll also present a new theoretical framework that could help paleo-scientists evaluate competing ideas about the causes of decadal- or multi-decadal events known to have occurred during the past one or two millennia.