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Estimates of uncertainty in the prediction of past climatic variables

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • David Lucy
  • Iain Robertson
  • Robert Aykroyd
  • Mark Pollard
Journal publication date10/2008
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Number of pages5
Original languageEnglish


Fitting a regression line to a set of measurements to investigate the relationship between a proxy estimate of past climate and known climatic parameters is a routine procedure. It is generally accepted that the higher the correlation between parameters, the more reliable the reconstruction. However, there is a lack of published work upon what correlation is the minimum acceptable value. Simulated data was used to demonstrate that the relationship between proxy values and the climatic data are adversely affected by falling correlation, to the point where, in a training set consisting of 100 pairs of temperature and tree-ring proxies, the mean 95% confidence interval width for the reconstructed temperature exceeds the total range of temperatures in the training set at or below r = 0.65. This correlation is typical of that used in many climate-proxy reconstructions, and it suggests that understanding of past climate variability may be somewhat constrained.