Detecting instabilities in tree-ring proxy calibration
1Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), The Netherlands
2Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
3Tree-Ring Laboratory, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York, USA
4Centre for the Analysis of Time Series, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), London, UK
Abstract. Evidence has been found for reduced sensitivity of tree growth to temperature in a number of forests at high northern latitudes and alpine locations. Furthermore, at some of these sites, emergent subpopulations of trees show negative growth trends with rising temperature. These findings are typically referred to as the "Divergence Problem" (DP). Given the high relevance of paleoclimatic reconstructions for policy-related studies, it is important for dendrochronologists to address this issue of potential model uncertainties associated with the DP. Here we address this issue by proposing a calibration technique, termed "stochastic response function" (SRF), which allows the presence or absence of any instabilities in growth response of trees (or any other climate proxy) to their calibration target to be visualized and detected. Since this framework estimates confidence limits and subsequently provides statistical significance tests, the approach is also very well suited for proxy screening prior to the generation of a climate-reconstruction network.
Two examples of tree growth/climate relationships are provided, one from the North American Arctic treeline and the other from the upper treeline in the European Alps. Instabilities were found to be present where stabilities were reported in the literature, and vice versa, stabilities were found where instabilities were reported. We advise to apply SRFs in future proxy-screening schemes, next to the use of correlations and RE/CE statistics. It will improve the strength of reconstruction hindcasts.