To what extent can oxygen isotopes in tree rings and precipitation be used to reconstruct past atmospheric temperature? A case study
We analyzed the relationship between air temperature and oxygen isotopes measured in tree rings of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) from a long-term forest ecosystem research plot in the Swiss Jura mountains (LWF project). The oxygen isotope data were compared with a century-long meteorological series of air temperature data. Measurements of oxygen isotope ratios in precipitation were also used for comparison. Results show that the late-wood tree-ring series is significantly correlated with May to August temperatures. Correlations were higher for maximum (daytime) air temperature and even better for air temperature measured on rainy days only. We stress that trends in maximum temperature series for this time of the year, like trends in oxygen isotope ratios series from tree rings, are completely different from trends in yearly mean temperature. Indeed, maximum temperature trends during the vegetation period slightly decreased during the 20th century, whereas yearly means increased strongly.