The observed late twentieth century warming must be assessed in relation to natural long-term variations of the climatic system. Here, we present a Northern Hemisphere (NH) temperature reconstruction for the mid-to-late Holocene of the past 6000 years, based on a synthesis of existing paleo-temperature proxies that are capable of revealing centennial-scale variability. This includes 56 published temperature records across the NH land areas, with a sampling resolution ranging from 1 to 100 years and a time span of at least 1000 years. The composite plus scale (CPS) method is adopted with spatial weighting to develop the NH temperature reconstruction. Our reconstruction reveals abrupt cold epochs that match well the Bond events during the past 6000 years. The study further reveals two prominent cycles in NH temperature: 1700–2000-year cycle during the mid-to-late Holocene and 1200–1500-year cycle during the past 3500 years. Our reconstruction indicates that the late twentieth century NH temperature and its rate of warming are both unprecedentedly high over the past 5000 years. By comparing our reconstruction with the projected temperature increase scenarios, we find that temperature by the end of the twenty-first century would likely exceed any peaks during the mid-to-late Holocene. Copyright © 2016 Springer-Verlag Wien.