Temperature reconstructions from tree-ring densities overestimate volcanic cooling

Martin P. Tingley, Alexander R. Stine, Peter Huybers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The fidelity of inferences on volcanic cooling from tree-ring density records has recently come into question, with competing claims that temperature reconstructions based on tree-ring records underestimate cooling due to an increased likelihood of missing rings or overestimate cooling due to reduced light availability accentuating the response. Here we test these competing hypotheses in the latitudes poleward of 45°N, using the two eruptions occurring between 1850 and 1960 with large-scale Northern Hemisphere climatic effects: Novarupta (1912) and Krakatau (1883). We find that tree-ring densities overestimate postvolcanic cooling with respect to instrumental data (Probability≥0.99), with larger magnitudes of bias where growth is more limited by light availability (Prob.≥0.95). Using a methodology that allows for direct comparisons with instrumental data, our results confirm that high-latitude tree-ring densities record not only temperature but also variations in light availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7838-7845
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 28 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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