Estimation of sedimentary proxy records together with associated uncertainty
Abstract. Sedimentary proxy records constitute a significant portion of the recorded evidence that allows us to investigate paleoclimatic conditions and variability. However, uncertainties in the dating of proxy archives limit our ability to fix the timing of past events and interpret proxy record intercomparisons. While there are various age-modeling approaches to improve the estimation of the age–depth relations of archives, relatively little focus has been placed on the propagation of the age (and radiocarbon calibration) uncertainties into the final proxy record.
We present a generic Bayesian framework to estimate proxy records along with their associated uncertainty, starting with the radiometric age–depth and proxy–depth measurements, and a radiometric calibration curve if required. We provide analytical expressions for the posterior proxy probability distributions at any given calendar age, from which the expected proxy values and their uncertainty can be estimated. We illustrate our method using two synthetic data sets and then use it to construct the proxy records for groundwater inflow and surface erosion from Lonar lake in central India.
Our analysis reveals interrelations between the uncertainty of the proxy record over time and the variance of proxies along the depth of the archive. For the Lonar lake proxies, we show that, rather than the age uncertainties, it is the proxy variance combined with calibration uncertainty that accounts for most of the final uncertainty. We represent the proxy records as probability distributions on a precise, error-free timescale that makes further time series analyses and intercomparisons of proxies relatively simple and clear. Our approach provides a coherent understanding of age uncertainties within sedimentary proxy records that involve radiometric dating. It can be potentially used within existing age modeling structures to bring forth a reliable and consistent framework for proxy record estimation.