We present a varve thickness chronology from glacier-dammed Iceberg Lake in the southern Alaska icefields. Radiogenic evidence confirms that laminations are annual and record continuous sediment deposition from A.D. 442 to A.D. 1998. Varve thickness is positively correlated with Northern Hemisphere temperature trends, and more strongly with a local, ∼600 yr long tree ring width chronology. Varve thickness increases in warm summers because of higher melt, runoff, and sediment transport (as expected), but also because shrinkage of the glacier dam allows shoreline regression that concentrates sediment in the smaller lake. Varve thickness provides a sensitive record of relative changes in warm season temperatures. Relative to the entire record, temperatures implied by this chronology were lowest around A.D. 600, warm between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1300, cooler between A.D. 1500 and A.D. 1850, and have increased dramatically since then. Combined with stratigraphic evidence that contemporary jökulhlaups (which began in 1999) are unprecedented since at least A.D. 442, this record suggests that 20th century warming is more intense, and accompanied by more extensive glacier retreat, than the Medieval Warm Period or any other time in the last 1500 yr.