Impact of borehole depths on reconstructed estimates of ground surface temperature histories and energy storage

Beltrami, Hugo; Matharoo, Gurpreet S.; Smerdon, Jason E.

Estimates of ground surface temperature changes and continental energy storage from geothermal data have become well-accepted indicators of climatic changes. These estimates are independent contributions to the ensemble of paleoclimatic reconstructions and have been used for the validation of general circulation models, and as a component of the energy budget accounting of the global climate system. Recent global and hemispheric analyses of geothermal data were based on data available in the borehole paleoclimatology database, which contains subsurface temperature profiles from a minimum depth of 200 m to about 600 m. Because of the nature of heat conduction, different depth ranges contain the record of past and persistent changes in the energy balance between the lower atmosphere and the ground for different time periods. Here we examine the dependency of estimated ground surface temperature histories and the magnitude of the subsurface heat content on the depth of borehole temperature profiles. Our results show that uncertainties in the estimates of the long-term surface temperature are in the range of ±0.5K. We conclude that previous estimates of ground surface temperature change remain valid for the period since industrialization, but longer-term estimates are subject to considerable uncertainties. The subsurface heat content shows a larger range of variability arising from differences in depth of the borehole temperature profiles, as well as from differences in the time of data acquisition, spanning four decades. These results indicate that estimates of subsurface heat should be carried out with caution to decrease cumulative errors in any spatial analysis.


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Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
American Geophysical Union
Published Here
October 7, 2015