A comparison of some simple methods used to detect unstable temperature responses in tree-ring chronologies
Allen, KJ and Villalba, R and Lavergne, A and Palmer, JG and Cook, EC and Fenwick, P and Drew, DM and Turney, CSM and Baker, PJ, A comparison of some simple methods used to detect unstable temperature responses in tree-ring chronologies, Dendrochronologia, 48 pp. 52-73. ISSN 1125-7865 (2018) [Refereed Article]
Temporal stability of the relationship between a potential proxy climate record and the climate record itself is the foundation of palaeoproxy reconstructions of past climate variability. Dendroclimatologists have spent considerable effort exploring the issue of temporal instability of temperature records at high-latitude and −altitude Northern Hemisphere sites. Much of this work has focused on the Divergence Problem in which the modern ends of tree-ring chronologies exhibit pronounced departures from the climate-proxy relationships of preceding decades. However, there has been little scrutiny of how different methods might influence determinations of temporal instability at either the local scale or across broader spatial domains. Here we use four sets of Southern Hemisphere (SH) chronologies and three sets of synthetic data with known interventions to compare four methodologies that have been widely used to assess the temporal stability of relationships between tree-ring series and climate. Our analyses demonstrate that a determination of temporal instability may be partially dependent on method used to examine data, that some methods are more sensitive to standardisation choice than others, and that all methods are better at detecting high- rather than low-frequency instability. In all cases, the relatively modest strength of the relationships between the selected SH ring-width chronologies and temperature is likely to be an issue, especially if changes in trends are of interest. We recommend that robust assessment of temporal instability between tree-ring chronologies and observational climate data should use a range of methods and that unstable temporal relationships across space be carefully considered in the context of large climate field reconstructions.