Evaluation of a modern-analogue methodology for reconstructing Australian palaeoclimate from pollen

Annika Herbert, Sandy P. Harrison

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Quantitative palaeoclimate reconstructions are widely used to evaluate climate model performance. Here, as part of an effort to provide such a data set for Australia, we examine the impact of analytical decisions and sampling assumptions on modern-analogue reconstructions using a continent-wide pollen data set. There is a high degree of correlation between temperature variables in the modern climate of Australia, but there is sufficient orthogonality in the variations of precipitation, summer and winter temperature and plant-available moisture to allow independent reconstructions of these four variables to be made. The method of analogue selection does not affect the reconstructions, although bootstrap resampling provides a more reliable technique for obtaining robust measures of uncertainty. The number of analogues used affects the quality of the reconstructions: the most robust reconstructions are obtained using 5 analogues. The quality of reconstructions based on post-1850 CE pollen samples differ little from those using samples from between 1450 and 1849 CE, showing that European post-settlement modification of vegetation has no impact on the fidelity of the reconstructions although it substantially increases the availability of potential analogues. Reconstructions based on core top samples are more realistic than those using surface samples, but only using core top samples would substantially reduce the number of available analogues and therefore increases the uncertainty of the reconstructions. Spatial and/or temporal averaging of pollen assemblages prior to analysis negatively affects the subsequent reconstructions for some variables and increases the associated uncertainties. In addition, the quality of the reconstructions is affected by the degree of spatial smoothing of the original climate data, with the best reconstructions obtained using climate data from a 0.5° resolution grid, which corresponds to the typical size of the pollen catchment. This study provides a methodology that can be used to provide reliable palaeoclimate reconstructions for Australia, which will fill in a major gap in the data sets used to evaluate climate models.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-77
    JournalReview of Palaeobotany and Palynology
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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