Reassessing the evidence for tree-growth and inferred temperature change during the Common Era in Yamalia, northwest Siberia

Keith R. Briffa, Thomas M. Melvin, Timothy J. Osborn, Rashit M. Hantemirov, Alexander V. Kirdyanov, Valeriy S. Mazepa, Stepan G. Shiyatov, Jan Esper

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The development of research into the history of tree growth and inferred summer temperature changes in Yamalia spanning the last 2000 years is reviewed. One focus is the evolving production of tree-ring width (TRW) and tree-ring maximum-latewood density (MXD) larch (Larix sibirica) chronologies, incorporating different applications of Regional Curve Standardisation (RCS). Another focus is the comparison of independent data representing past tree growth in adjacent Yamalia areas: Yamal and Polar Urals, and the examination of the evidence for common growth behaviour at different timescales. The sample data we use are far more numerous and cover a longer time-span at Yamal compared to the Polar Urals, but Yamal has only TRW, while there are both TRW and MXD for the Polar Urals. We use more data (sub-fossil and from living trees) than in previous dendroclimatic studies in this region. We develop a new TRW chronology for Yamal, more than 2000 years long and running up to 2005. For the Polar Urals we develop new TRW and MXD chronologies that show good agreement at short (<15 years) and medium (15–100 years) timescales demonstrating the validity of attempts to reconcile the evidence of longer-timescale information that they provide. We use a “conservative” application of the RCS approach (two-curve signal-free RCS), guarding against the possibility of “modern sample bias”: a possible inflation of recent chronology values arising out of inadvertent selection of mostly relatively fast-growing trees in recent centuries. We also transform tree indices to have a normal distribution to remove the positive chronology skew often apparent in RCS TRW chronologies. This also reduces the apparent magnitude of 20th century tree-growth levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-107
Number of pages25
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date24 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2013


  • Dendroclimatology
  • Climate reconstruction
  • Medieval Warm Period
  • Polar Urals
  • Yamal
  • Summer temperature

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