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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2020-126
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2020-126
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  09 Oct 2020

09 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Climate indices in historical climate reconstructions: A global state-of-the-art

David J. Nash1,2, George C. D. Adamson3, Linden Ashcroft4,5, Martin Bauch6, Chantal Camenisch7,8, Dagomar Degroot9, Joelle Gergis10,11, Adrian Jusopović12, Thomas Labbé6,13, Kuan-Hui Elaine Lin14,15, Sharon D. Nicholson16, Qing Pei17, María del Rosario Prieto18,, Ursula Rack19, Facundo Rojas18, and Sam White20 David J. Nash et al.
  • 1School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
  • 2School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 3Department of Geography, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 4School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  • 5ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  • 6Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  • 7OeschgerCentre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 8Institute of History, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 9Department of History, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA
  • 10Fenner School of Environment &Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  • 11ARC Centre of Excellencefor Climate Extremes, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  • 12Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
  • 13Maison des Sciences de l'Homme de Dijon, University of Burgundy, Dijon, France
  • 14Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 15Graduate Institute of Environmental Education, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 16Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA
  • 17Department of Social Sciences, Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Peoples Republicof China
  • 18Argentine Institute of Nivology, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA-CONICET), Mendoza, Argentina
  • 19Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • 20Department of History, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
  • deceased

Abstract. Evidence contained within historical documents and inscriptions provides an important record of climate variability for periods prior to the onset of systematic meteorological data collection. A common approach used by historical climatologists to convert such qualitative documentary evidence into continuous quantitative proxy data is through the generation of ordinal-scale climate indices. There is, however, considerable variability in the types of phenomena reconstructed using an index approach and the practice of index development in different parts of the world. This review, written by members of the PAGES CRIAS Working Group – a collective of climate historians and historical climatologists researching Climate Reconstructions and Impacts from the Archives of Societies – provides the first global synthesis of the use of the index approach in climate reconstruction. We begin by summarising the range of studies that have used indices for climate reconstruction across six continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia) plus the world's oceans. We then outline the different methods by which indices are developed in each of these regions, including a discussion of the processes adopted to verify and calibrate index series, and the measures used to express confidence and uncertainty. We conclude with a series of recommendations to guide the development of future index-based climate reconstructions to maximise their effectiveness for use by climate modellers and in multiproxy climate reconstructions.

David J. Nash et al.

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Short summary
Qualitative evidence contained within historical sources provides an important record of climate variability for periods prior to the onset of systematic meteorological data collection. Before such evidence can be used for climate reconstructions, it needs to be converted to quantitative data. A common approach used is the generation of ordinal-scale climate indices. This review, written by members of the PAGES CRIAS Working Group, provides a global synthesis of the use of the index approach.
Qualitative evidence contained within historical sources provides an important record of climate...
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