220.127.116.11 How Precisely Can Palaeoclimatic Records of Forcing and Response be Dated?
Much has been researched and written on the dating methods associated with palaeoclimatic records, and readers are referred to the background books cited above for more detail. In general, dating accuracy gets weaker farther back in time and dating methods often have specific ranges where they can be applied. Tree ring records are generally the most accurate, and are accurate to the year, or season of a year (even back thousands of years). There are a host of other proxies that also have annual layers or bands (e.g., corals, varved sediments, some cave deposits, some ice cores) but the age models associated with these are not always exact to a specific year. Palaeoclimatologists strive to generate age information from multiple sources to reduce age uncertainty, and palaeoclimatic interpretations must take into account uncertainties in time control.
There continue to be significant advances in radiometric dating. Each radiometric system has ranges over which the system is useful, and palaeoclimatic studies almost always publish analytical uncertainties. Because there can be additional uncertainties, methods have been developed for checking assumptions and cross verifying with independent methods. For example, secular variations in the radiocarbon clock over the last 12 kyr are well known, and fairly well understood over the last 35 kyr. These variations, and the quality of the radiocarbon clock, have both been well demonstrated via comparisons with age models derived from precise tree ring and varved sediment records, as well as with age determinations derived from independent radiometric systems such as uranium series. However, for each proxy record, the quality of the radiocarbon chronology also depends on the density of dates, the material available for dating and knowledge about the radiocarbon age of the carbon that was incorporated into the dated material.