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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 03 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Estimating the timescale-dependent uncertainty of paleoclimate records – a spectral approach. Part I: Theoretical concept

Torben Kunz1, Andrew M. Dolman1, and Thomas Laepple1,2 Torben Kunz et al.
  • 1Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Research Unit Potsdam, Telegrafenberg A45, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2University of Bremen, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences and Faculty of Geosciences, 28334 Bremen, Germany

Abstract. Proxy records represent an invaluable source of information for reconstructing past climatic variations, but they are associated with considerable uncertainties. For a systematic quantification of these reconstruction errors, however, knowledge is required not only of their individual sources but also of their auto-correlation structure, as this determines the timescale dependence of their magnitude, an issue that is often ignored until now. Here a spectral approach to uncertainty analysis is provided for paleoclimate reconstructions obtained from single sediment proxy records. The formulation in the spectral domain, rather than the time domain, allows for an explicit demonstration as well as quantification of the timescale dependence that is inherent in any proxy-based reconstruction uncertainty. This study is published in two parts.

In this first part, the theoretical concept is presented and analytic expressions are derived for the power spectral density of the reconstruction error of sediment proxy records. The underlying model takes into account the spectral structure of the climate signal, seasonal and orbital variations, bioturbation, sampling of a finite number of signal carriers, uncorrelated measurement noise, and it includes the effects of spectral aliasing and leakage. The uncertainty estimation method, based upon this model, is illustrated by simple examples. In the second part of this study, published separately, the method is implemented in an application-oriented context, and more detailed examples are presented.

Torben Kunz et al.

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Torben Kunz et al.

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Latest update: 26 Feb 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This paper introduces a method to estimate the uncertainty of climate reconstructions from single sediment proxy records. The method allows to compute uncertainties as a function of averaging timescale, thereby accounting for the fact that some components of the uncertainty are autocorrelated in time. This is achieved by treating the problem in the spectral domain. Fully analytic expressions are derived. A companion paper (Part II) complements this by application-oriented examples of the method.
This paper introduces a method to estimate the uncertainty of climate reconstructions from...