Beginning in the 1970s with CLIMAP, paleoclimatologists have been trying to derive quantitative estimates of climatic parameters from the sedimentary record. In general the procedure is to observe the modern distribution of some component of surface sediment that depends on climate, find an empirical relationship between climate and the character of sediments, then extrapolate past climate by studying older sediments in the same way.
Initially the empirical relationship between climate and components of the sediment was determined using a multiple regression technique (Imbrie and Kipp, 1971). In these studies sea-floor sediments were examined to determine the percentage of various species of planktonic foraminifera present in them. Supposing that the distribution of foraminiferal assemblages depended strongly on the extremes of annual sea-surface temperature (SST), the foraminiferal assemblages (refined through use of varimax factor analysis) were regressed against the average SST during the coolest and warmest months of the year. The result was a set of transfer functions, equations that could be used to estimate cool and warm SST from the faunal composition of a sediment sample. Assuming that the ecological preference of the species had remained constant throughout the last several hundred thousand years, these transfer functions could be used to estimate SSTs during much of the late Pleistocene.
Hutson (1980) and Overpeck, Webb, and Prentice (1985) proposed an alternative approach to estimating paleoclimatic parameters. Their 'method of modern analogs' revolved not around the existence of a few climatically-sensitive faunal assemblages but rather on the expectation that similar climatic regimes should foster similar faunal and floral assemblages. From a large pool of modern samples, those few are selected whose faunal compositions are most similar to a given fossil sample. Paleoclimate estimates are derived using the climatic character of only the most similar modern samples, the modern analogs of the fossil sample.
This report describes how to use the program ANALOG to carry out the method of modern analogs. It is assumed that the user has faunal census estimates of one or more fossil samples, and one or more sets of faunal data from modern samples. Furthermore, the user must understand the taxonomic categories represented in the data sets, and be able to recognize taxa that are or may be considered equivalent in the analysis.
ANALOG provides the user with flexibility in input data format, output data content, and choice of distance measure, and allows the user to determine which taxa from each modern and fossil data file are compared. Most of the memory required by the program is allocated dynamically, so that, on systems that permit program segments to grow, the program consumes only as many system resources as are needed to accomplish its task.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
ANALOG: a program for estimating paleoclimate parameters using the method of modern analogs
Global Change Research Program
Dataset, source code, and accompanying documentation