External forcing and internal dynamics result in climate system variability ranging from sub-daily weather to multi-centennial trends and beyond. State-of-the-art palaeoclimatic methods routinely use hydroclimatic proxies to reconstruct temperature (for example, refs,), possibly blurring differences in the variability continuum of temperature and precipitation before the instrumental period. Here, we assess the spectral characteristics of temperature and precipitation fluctuations in observations, model simulations and proxy records across the globe. We find that whereas an ensemble of different general circulation models represents patterns captured in instrumental measurements, such as land-ocean contrasts and enhanced low-frequency tropical variability, the tree-ring-dominated proxy collection does not. The observed dominance of inter-annual precipitation fluctuations is not reflected in the annually resolved hydroclimatic proxy records. Likewise, temperature-sensitive proxies overestimate, on average, the ratio of low- to high-frequency variability. These spectral biases in the proxy records seem to propagate into multi-proxy climate reconstructions for which we observe an overestimation of low-frequency signals. Thus, a proper representation of the high- to low-frequency spectrum in proxy records is needed to reduce uncertainties in climate reconstruction efforts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)