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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.

  05 Oct 2020

05 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

How precipitation intermittency sets an optimal sampling distance for temperature reconstructions from Antarctic ice cores

Thomas Münch1, Martin Werner2, and Thomas Laepple1,3 Thomas Münch et al.
  • 1Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Research Unit Potsdam, Telegrafenberg A45, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Bussestraße 24, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 3University of Bremen, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences and Faculty of Geosciences, 28334 Bremen, Germany

Abstract. Many palaeoclimate proxies share one challenging property: they are not only driven by the climatic variable of interest, e.g., temperature, but they are also influenced by secondary effects which cause, among other things, increased variability, frequently termed noise. Noise in individual proxy records can be reduced by averaging the records, but the effectiveness of this approach depends on the correlation of the noise between the records and therefore on the spatial scales of the noise-generating processes. Here, we review and apply this concept in the context of Antarctic ice-core isotope records to determine which core locations are best suited to reconstruct local-to-regional-scale temperatures. Using data from a past-millennium climate model simulation equipped with stable isotope diagnostics we intriguingly find that even for a local temperature reconstruction the optimal sampling strategy is to combine a local ice core with a more distant core ~ 500–1000 km away. A similarly large distance between cores is also optimal for reconstructions that average more than two isotope records. We show that these findings result from the interplay of the two spatial scales of the correlation structures associated with the temperature field and with the noise generated by precipitation intermittency. Our study helps to maximise the usability of existing Antarctic ice cores and to optimally plan future drilling campaigns. It also broadens our knowledge on the processes that shape the isotopic record and their typical correlation scales. Finally, the presented method can be directly extended to determine optimal sampling strategies for other palaeoclimate reconstruction problems.

Thomas Münch et al.

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Thomas Münch et al.

Data sets

Antarctic time series of temperature, precipitation, and stable isotopes in precipitation from the ECHAM5/MPI-OM-wiso past1000 climate model simulation Thomas Münch and Martin Werner

Thomas Münch et al.


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Latest update: 24 Oct 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We analyse Holocene climate model simulation data to find the locations of Antarctic ice cores which are best suited to reconstruct local-to-regional scale temperatures. We find that the spatial decorrelation scales of the temperature variations and of the noise from precipitation intermittency set an effective sampling length scale. Following this, a single core should be located at the target site for the temperature reconstruction, a second one optimally lies more than 500 km away.
We analyse Holocene climate model simulation data to find the locations of Antarctic ice cores...