Refining the global branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (brGDGT) soil temperature calibration

B. D A Naafs*, A. V. Gallego-Sala, G. N. Inglis, R. D. Pancost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)
231 Downloads (Pure)


Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) are increasingly used to reconstruct past terrestrial temperature and soil pH. Here we compare all available modern soil brGDGT data (n = 350) to a wide range of environmental parameters to obtain new global temperature calibrations. We show that soil moisture index (MI), a modeled parameter that also takes potential evapotranspiration into account, is correlated to the 6-methyl brGDGT distribution but does not significantly control the distribution of 5-methyl brGDGTs. Instead, temperature remains the primary control on 5-methyl brGDGTs. We propose the following global calibrations: MAATsoil = 40.01 × MBT5me  − 15.25 (n = 350, R2 = 0.60, RMSE = 5.3 °C) and growing degree days above freezing (GDD0 soil) = 14344.3 × MBT5me  − 4997.5 (n = 350, R2 = 0.63, RMSE = 1779 °C). Recent studies have suggested that factors other than temperature can impact arid and/or alkaline soils dominated by 6-methyl brGDGTs. As such, we develop new global temperature calibrations using samples dominated by 5-methyl brGDGTs only (IR6me < 0.5). These new calibrations have significantly improved correlation coefficients and lower root mean square errors (RMSE) compared to the global calibrations: MAATsoil′ = 39.09 × MBT5me  − 14.50 (n = 177, R2 = 0.76, RMSE = 4.1 °C) and GDD0 soil′ = 13498.8 × MBT5me  − 4444.5 (n = 177, R2 = 0.78, RMSE = 1326). We suggest that these new calibrations should be used to reconstruct terrestrial climate in the geological past; however, care should be taken when employing these calibrations outside the modern calibration range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Early online date10 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2017


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