eCite Digital Repository

Uncertainty in palaeoclimatic reconstructions based on leaf physiognomy


Jordan, GJ, Uncertainty in palaeoclimatic reconstructions based on leaf physiognomy, Australian Journal of Botany, 45, (3) pp. 527-547. ISSN 0067-1924 (1997) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1071/BT96035


There are several methods of predicting terrestrial palaeoclimates from the size and shape of fossil leaves (foliar physiognomy). The assumptions and sources of uncertainty of these methods are considered and used to determine the true uncertainty. Their ability to predict mean annual temperature (MAT) is poor. The approximate standard errors for samples of living vegetation in North America are in the range of 1.7°C to 2.5°C, but the true uncertainty for fossil samples is higher. Specimens with very different physiognomy to typical specimens in the model have higher uncertainties. Besides these uncertainties, the processes of fossilisation, the allocation of specimens to taxa, and the effects of other factors on foliar physiognomy all increase the uncertainty of the predictions. Overall uncertainties in the predictions of MAT are equivalent to standard errors of about 3-5°C depending on the nature of the fossil site and flora. Other factors affect foliar physiognomic predictions significantly because predicted MAT does not change as rapidly with altitude as true MAT, and floras from different parts of the world with similar temperatures give different temperature predictions. Mean annual temperature and one precipitation parameter (probably mean annual precipitation or the growing season precipitation) can be predicted more or less independently, although the predictions of precipitation are weak. Physiognomic signals for other climatic parameters are weak or apparently non-existent, and previously published predictions of past equability are primarily based on correlations with modern MAT, rather than physiognomy.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Research Field:Palaeoclimatology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Jordan, GJ (Professor Greg Jordan)
ID Code:10335
Year Published:1997
Web of Science® Times Cited:38
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:1997-08-01
Last Modified:2011-08-11

Repository Staff Only: item control page