Interpolation methods for Antarctic ice-core timescales: application to Byrd, Siple Dome and Law Dome ice cores
Abstract. Antarctic ice cores have often been dated by matching distinctive features of atmospheric methane to those detected in annually dated ice cores from Greenland. Establishing the timescale between these tie-point ages requires interpolation. While the uncertainty at tie points is relatively well described, uncertainty of the interpolation is not. Here we assess the accuracy of three interpolation schemes using data from the WAIS Divide ice core in West Antarctica; we compare the interpolation methods with the annually resolved timescale for the past 30 kyr. Linear interpolation yields large age errors (up to 380 years) between tie points, abrupt changes in duration of climate events at tie points, and an age bias. Interpolations based on the smoothest accumulation rate (ACCUM) or the smoothest annual-layer thickness (ALT) yield timescales that more closely agree with the annually resolved timescale and do not have abrupt changes in duration at tie points. We use ALT to assess the uncertainty in existing timescales for the past 30 kyr from Byrd, Siple Dome, and Law Dome. These ice-core timescales were developed with methods similar to linear interpolation. Maximum age differences exceed 1000 years for Byrd and Siple Dome, and 500 years for Law Dome. For the glacial–interglacial transition (21 to 12 kyr), the existing timescales are, on average, older than ALT by 40 years for Byrd, 240 years for Siple Dome, and 150 years for Law Dome. Because interpolation uncertainty is often not considered, age uncertainties for ice-core records are often underestimated.