Ranking of tree-ring based temperature reconstructions of the past millennium

Jan Esper, Paul J. Krusic, Fredrik C. Ljungqvist, Jürg Luterbacher, Marco Carrer, Ed Cook, Nicole K. Davi, Claudia Hartl-Meier, Alexander Kirdyanov, Oliver Konter, Vladimir Myglan, Mauri Timonen, Kerstin Treydte, Valerie Trouet, Ricardo Villalba, Bao Yang, Ulf Büntgen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Tree-ring chronologies are widely used to reconstruct high-to low-frequency variations in growing season temperatures over centuries to millennia. The relevance of these timeseries in large-scale climate reconstructions is often determined by the strength of their correlation against instrumental temperature data. However, this single criterion ignores several important quantitative and qualitative characteristics of tree-ring chronologies. Those characteristics are (i) data homogeneity, (ii) sample replication, (iii) growth coherence, (iv) chronology development, and (v) climate signal including the correlation with instrumental data. Based on these 5 characteristics, a reconstruction-scoring scheme is proposed and applied to 39 published, millennial-length temperature reconstructions from Asia, Europe, North America, and the Southern Hemisphere. Results reveal no reconstruction scores highest in every category and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Reconstructions that perform better overall include N-Scan and Finland from Europe, E-Canada from North America, Yamal and Dzhelo from Asia. Reconstructions performing less well include W-Himalaya and Karakorum from Asia, Tatra and S-Finland from Europe, and Great Basin from North America. By providing a comprehensive set of criteria to evaluate tree-ring chronologies we hope to improve the development of large-scale temperature reconstructions spanning the past millennium. All reconstructions and their corresponding scores are provided at www.blogs.uni-mainz.de/fb09climatology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-151
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Climate change
  • Dendrochronology
  • Dendroclimatology
  • Paleoclimate
  • Proxy data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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