AbstractWe use long instrumental temperature series together with available field reconstructions of sea-level pressure (SLP) and three-dimensional climate model simulations to analyze relations between temperature anomalies and atmospheric circulation patterns over much of Europe and the Mediterranean for the late winter/early spring (January–April, JFMA) season. A Canonical Correlation Analysis (CCA) investigates interannual to interdecadal covariability between a new gridded SLP field reconstruction and seven long instrumental temperature series covering the past 250 years. We then present and discuss prominent atmospheric circulation patterns related to anomalous warm and cold JFMA conditions within different European areas spanning the period 1760–2007. Next, using a data assimilation technique, we link gridded SLP data with a climate model (EC-Bilt-Clio) for a better dynamical understanding of the relationship between large scale circulation and European climate. We thus present an alternative approach to reconstruct climate for the pre-instrumental period based on the assimilated model simulations. Furthermore, we present an independent method to extend the dynamic circulation analysis for anomalously cold European JFMA conditions back to the sixteenth century. To this end, we use documentary records that are spatially representative for the long instrumental records and derive, through modern analogs, large-scale SLP, surface temperature and precipitation fields. The skill of the analog method is tested in the virtual world of two three-dimensional climate simulations (ECHO-G and HadCM3). This endeavor offers new possibilities to both constrain climate model into a reconstruction mode (through the assimilation approach) and to better asses documentary data in a quantitative way.