The mutual climatic range (MCR) technique for reconstructing palaeoclimate relies on establishing the present-day climatic tolerance ranges of living species which are also found as fossils in Quaternary deposits. The palaeoclimate under which the species in a fossil assemblage co-existed can be inferred to lie within the intersection of the individual species' tolerance ranges. This paper describes a factor analysis of modern European climate data to determine two compound variables that describe the main features of the climate: 'summer warmth and dryness' and 'wetness and winter warmth'. Distribution maps of 80 plants from Atlas Florae Europaeae were combined with the climate data to determine each species' climatic range in factor space. MCRs were determined for two living plant assemblages from southeast England and found to give a reliable, although rather imprecise, reconstruction of the true thermal and precipitation climate. Reconstructions for two plant macro-fossil assemblages from Devensian gravels at Earith, Cambridgeshire, demonstrated palaeoclimates that were colder and more continental than the present, but with similar total amounts of precipitation. The study demonstrates the potential of the MCR method for use with Quaternary macrofossil plant remains, although there are methodological drawbacks in employing a climate-space defined by factor analysis.

Scientific editing by Jim Rose & Ian Fairchild.
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