Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Research article
22 Aug 2016
Research article |  | 22 Aug 2016

Water and carbon stable isotope records from natural archives: a new database and interactive online platform for data browsing, visualizing and downloading

Timothé Bolliet, Patrick Brockmann, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Franck Bassinot, Valérie Daux, Dominique Genty, Amaelle Landais, Marlène Lavrieux, Elisabeth Michel, Pablo Ortega, Camille Risi, Didier M. Roche, Françoise Vimeux, and Claire Waelbroeck

Abstract. Past climate is an important benchmark to assess the ability of climate models to simulate key processes and feedbacks. Numerous proxy records exist for stable isotopes of water and/or carbon, which are also implemented inside the components of a growing number of Earth system model. Model–data comparisons can help to constrain the uncertainties associated with transfer functions. This motivates the need of producing a comprehensive compilation of different proxy sources. We have put together a global database of proxy records of oxygen (δ18O), hydrogen (δD) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotopes from different archives: ocean and lake sediments, corals, ice cores, speleothems and tree-ring cellulose. Source records were obtained from the georeferenced open access PANGAEA and NOAA libraries, complemented by additional data obtained from a literature survey. About 3000 source records were screened for chronological information and temporal resolution of proxy records. Altogether, this database consists of hundreds of dated δ18O, δ13C and δD records in a standardized simple text format, complemented with a metadata Excel catalog. A quality control flag was implemented to describe age markers and inform on chronological uncertainty. This compilation effort highlights the need to homogenize and structure the format of datasets and chronological information as well as enhance the distribution of published datasets that are currently highly fragmented and scattered. We also provide an online portal based on the records included in this database with an intuitive and interactive platform (, allowing one to easily select, visualize and download subsets of the homogeneously formatted records that constitute this database, following a choice of search criteria, and to upload new datasets. In the last part, we illustrate the type of application allowed by our database by comparing several key periods highly investigated by the paleoclimate community. For coherency with the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP), we focus on records spanning the past 200 years, the mid-Holocene (MH, 5.5–6.5 ka; calendar kiloyears before 1950), the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 19–23 ka), and those spanning the last interglacial period (LIG, 115–130 ka). Basic statistics have been applied to characterize anomalies between these different periods. Most changes from the MH to present day and from LIG to MH appear statistically insignificant. Significant global differences are reported from LGM to MH with regional discrepancies in signals from different archives and complex patterns.

Short summary
This paper presents a new database of past climate proxies which aims to facilitate the distribution of data by using a user-friendly interface. Available data from the last 40 years are often fragmented, with lots of different formats, and online libraries are sometimes nonintuitive. We thus built a new dynamic web portal for data browsing, visualizing, and batch downloading of hundreds of datasets presenting a homogeneous format.