Climate drivers for peatland palaeoclimate records

Dan J. Charman (Corresponding Author), Keith E. Barber, Maarten Blaauw, Pete G. Langdon, Dmitri Mauquoy, Tim J. Daley, Paul D.M. Hughes, Edgar Karofeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Citations (Scopus)


Reconstruction of hydroclimate variability is an important part of understanding natural climate change on decadal to millennial timescales. Peatland records reconstruct 'bog surface wetness' (BSW) changes, but it is unclear whether it is a relative dominance of precipitation or temperature that has driven these variations over Holocene timescales. Previously, correlations with instrumental climate data implied that precipitation is the dominant control. However, a recent chironomid inferred July temperature record suggested temperature changes were synchronous with BSW over the mid-late Holocene. This paper provides new analyses of these data to test competing hypotheses of climate controls on bog surface wetness and discusses some of the distal drivers of large-scale spatial patterns of BSW change. Using statistically based estimates of uncertainty in chronologies and proxy records, we show a correlation between Holocene summer temperature and BSW is plausible, but that chronologies are insufficiently precise to demonstrate this conclusively. Simulated summer moisture deficit changes for the last 6000 years forced by temperature alone are relatively small compared with observations over the 20th century. Instrumental records show that summer moisture deficit provides the best explanatory variable for measured water table changes and is more strongly correlated with precipitation than with temperature in both Estonia and the UK. We conclude that BSW is driven primarily by precipitation, reinforced by temperature, which is negatively correlated with precipitation and therefore usually forces summer moisture deficit in the same direction. In western Europe, BSW records are likely to be forced by changes in the strength and location of westerlies, linked to large-scale North Atlantic ocean and atmospheric circulation. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1811-1819
Number of pages9
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number19-20
Early online date21 Jun 2009
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009

Bibliographical note

The data for Männikjärve bog were provided by Tooma Mire Station, Estonian Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. The work on Talkin Tarn was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (Grant No. GR9/04313 to KEB) and supported by radiocarbon age estimates from the NERC Radiocarbon Facility. EK was supported by Estonian Science Foundation grant No 6755.


  • North-Atlantic climate
  • late-holocene
  • solar-activity
  • water tables
  • raised bogs
  • proxy data
  • reconstructions
  • variability
  • England
  • Britain


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