Joint inversion of proxy system models to reconstruct paleoenvironmental time series from heterogeneous data

Bowen, Gabriel J.; Fischer-Femal, Brenden; Reichart, Gert-Jan; Sluijs, Appy; Lear, Caroline H.

Paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions are fundamentally uncertain because no proxy is a direct record of a single environmental variable of interest; all proxies are indirect and sensitive to multiple forcing factors. One productive approach to reducing proxy uncertainty is the integration of information from multiple proxy systems with complementary, overlapping sensitivity. Mostly, such analyses are conducted in an ad hoc fashion, either through qualitative comparison to assess the similarity of single-proxy reconstructions or through step-wise quantitative interpretations where one proxy is used to constrain a variable relevant to the interpretation of a second proxy. Here we propose the integration of multiple proxies via the joint inversion of proxy system and paleoenvironmental time series models in a Bayesian hierarchical framework. The “Joint Proxy Inversion” (JPI) method provides a statistically robust approach to producing self-consistent interpretations of multi-proxy datasets, allowing full and simultaneous assessment of all proxy and model uncertainties to obtain quantitative estimates of past environmental conditions. Other benefits of the method include the ability to use independent information on climate and environmental systems to inform the interpretation of proxy data, to fully leverage information from unevenly and differently sampled proxy records, and to obtain refined estimates of proxy model parameters that are conditioned on paleo-archive data. Application of JPI to the marine Mg∕Ca and δ18O proxy systems at two distinct timescales demonstrates many of the key properties, benefits, and sensitivities of the method, and it produces new, statistically grounded reconstructions of Neogene ocean temperature and chemistry from previously published data. We suggest that JPI is a universally applicable method that can be implemented using proxy models of wide-ranging complexity to generate more robust, quantitative understanding of past climatic and environmental change.



Bowen, Gabriel J. / Fischer-Femal, Brenden / Reichart, Gert-Jan / et al: Joint inversion of proxy system models to reconstruct paleoenvironmental time series from heterogeneous data. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


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