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Borehole climate reconstructions: Spatial structure and hemispheric averages

Pollack, Henry N.; Smerdon, Jason E.

Ground surface temperature (GST) reconstructions determined from temperature profiles measured in terrestrial boreholes, when averaged over the Northern Hemisphere, estimate a surface warming of ~1 K during the interval AD 1500-2000. Other traditional proxy-based estimates suggest less warming during the same interval. Mann et al. [2003a] have raised two issues with regard to borehole-based reconstructions. The first focuses on the need for spatial gridding and area-weighting of the ensemble of borehole-based GST reconstructions to yield an average hemispheric reconstruction. The second asserts that application of optimal detection techniques show that the GST only weakly displays the spatial structure of the surface air temperature (SAT). We demonstrate the consistency of GST warming estimates by showing that over a wide range of grid element area and occupancy weighting schemes, the five-century GST change falls in the range of 0.89-1.05 K. We examine the subhemispheric spatial correlation of GST and SAT trends at various spatial scales. In the 5-degree grid employed for optimal detection, we find that the majority of grid element means are determined from three or fewer boreholes, a number that is insufficient to suppress site-specific noise via ensemble averaging. Significant spatial correlation between SAT and GST emerges in a 5-degree grid if low-occupancy grid elements are excluded, and also in a 30-degree grid in which grid element means are better determined through higher occupancy. Reconstructions assembled after excluding low-occupancy grid elements show a five-century GST change in the range of 1.02-1.06 K.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
American Geophysical Union
Published Here
August 24, 2011