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Fading temperature sensitivity of Alpine tree growth at its Mediterranean margin and associated effects on large-scale climate reconstructions

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  • Ulf Büntgen

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  • David Frank
  • Thomas Neuenschwander
  • Jan Esper

Abstract

A millennium-long tree-ring width chronology of living and dead larch (Larix decidua Mill.) specimens from the Maritime French Alps was introduced 35 years ago. This record has been included in various large-scale temperature reconstructions, though recent analyses revealed only weak associations with regional summer temperatures. Calibration and verification trials against instrumental measurements were, however, limited by the original record’s early ending in 1974. Here we introduce an update of this widely considered chronology until 2007 and back into medieval times. A total of 297 new larch samples from high-elevation settings in the southern French Alps were included, and the combined 398 measurement series allowed effects of tree-ring detrending and chronology development to be explored. Comparisons with meteorological temperature, precipitation and drought indices revealed weak and temporally inconsistent climate sensitivity. To further place these local findings in a biogeographic context, we used >3,000 larch trees from 61 locations across the Alpine arc. This unique network approach confirmed fading temperature sensitivity with decreasing latitude, and thus questioned the overall reliability of ring width-based temperature reconstructions in the Mediterranean region. Our results further emphasize the pending need to develop chronologies from maximum latewood densities and stable isotope ratios across the lower latitudes, and to carefully evaluate ecological site conditions and methodological data restrictions prior to compiling local data into global networks. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Ulf Büntgen & David Frank & Thomas Neuenschwander & Jan Esper, 2012. "Fading temperature sensitivity of Alpine tree growth at its Mediterranean margin and associated effects on large-scale climate reconstructions," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 114(3), pages 651-666, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:114:y:2012:i:3:p:651-666 DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0450-4
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. A. Kay & H. Davies & V. Bell & R. Jones, 2009. "Comparison of uncertainty sources for climate change impacts: flood frequency in England," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 92(1), pages 41-63, January.
    2. Hulme, Mike & Raper, Sarah CB & Wigley, Tom ML, 1995. "An integrated framework to address climate change (ESCAPE) and further developments of the global and regional climate modules (MAGICC)," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 347-355.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ulf Büntgen & Willy Tegel & Marco Carrer & Paul Krusic & Michael Hayes & Jan Esper, 2015. "Commentary to Wetter et al. (2014): Limited tree-ring evidence for a 1540 European ‘Megadrought’," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 131(2), pages 183-190, July.

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