The influence of 14C reservoir age on interpretation of paleolimnological records from the Tibetan Plateau
There is a great deal of controversy regarding the fate of glaciers and ice fields on the Tibetan Plateau in the face of continued anthropogenic global warming. Paleoclimate reconstructions and spatial analyses aimed at mapping past climate changes are the key to understanding the climatic response of the Tibetan Plateau to changing conditions. Specifically, the numerous lakes distributed across the Tibetan Plateau can provide high-resolution (spatial and temporal) climate reconstructions to investigate past changes in the climate system. In this paper, we review the primary limitation to exploiting these valuable paleoclimate archives: errors in radiocarbon-based age models. We review the techniques that have been used to estimate 14C reservoir ages on the Tibetan Plateau and compile the published 14C reservoir ages to examine their spatial and temporal patterns and to assess the imposed chronological uncertainties. Using site-specific evaluations of Bangong Co and Lake Qinghai, we demonstrate that 14C age model uncertainties permit equally probable and contrasting interpretations of existing paleoclimate records. We also examine 14C-induced uncertainties in the spatial climatic response on the Tibetan Plateau to (1) the termination of the Last Glacial Maximum and (2) the Holocene Thermal Maximum. We conclude with recommendations for reducing uncertainties in future lake-based paleoclimate studies on the Tibetan Plateau.
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