A matter of divergence: Tracking recent warming at hemispheric scales using tree ring data

Wilson, R.; D'Arrigo, Rosanne Dorothy; Buckley, Brendan M.; Buntgen, U.; Esper, J.; Frank, D.; Luckman, B.; Payette, S.; Vose, R.; Youngblut, D.

No current tree ring (TR) based reconstruction of extratropical Northern Hemisphere (ENH) temperatures that extends into the 1990s captures the full range of late 20th century warming observed in the instrumental record. Over recent decades, a divergence between cooler reconstructed and warmer instrumental large-scale temperatures is observed. We hypothesize that this problem is partly related to the fact that some of the constituent chronologies used for previous reconstructions show divergence against local temperatures in the recent period. In this study, we compiled TR data and published local/regional reconstructions that show no divergence against local temperatures. These data have not been included in other large-scale temperature reconstructions. Utilizing this data set, we developed a new, completely independent reconstruction of ENH annual temperatures (1750–2000). This record is not meant to replace existing reconstructions but allows some degree of independent validation of these earlier studies as well as demonstrating that TR data can better model recent warming at large scales when careful selection of constituent chronologies is made at the local scale. Although the new series tracks the increase in ENH annual temperatures over the last few decades better than any existing reconstruction, it still slightly under predicts values in the post-1988 period. We finally discuss possible reasons why it is so difficult to model post-mid-1980s warming, provide some possible alternative approaches with regards to the instrumental target and detail several recommendations that should be followed in future large-scale reconstruction attempts that may result in more robust temperature estimates.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Tree Ring Lab
Published Here
September 2, 2014