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Spatial Patterns of Preinstrumental Moisture Variability in the Southern Canadian Cordillera

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  • 1 Climate Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada
  • | 2 Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
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Abstract

Extreme wet and dry intervals of the last 350 yr in the Canadian Cordillera and adjacent United States are examined using a network of 25 tree-ring-based precipitation and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) reconstructions. Reconstructed twentieth-century-mapped patterns compare well with patterns based on the instrumental records at both annual and decadal scales. During the most extreme events, dry conditions occurred over the entire area. The longest widespread drought in the last 350 yr occurred from 1917 to 1941. Shorter intervals of more severely dry conditions occurred in the early 1720s, 1750s, 1790s, 1860s–70s, and the 1890s. Many of the driest individual years and most extreme dry periods of <7 yr are reconstructed for the eighteenth century. The longest, wettest periods identified by these reconstructions occurred in the early twentieth century. In agreement with published studies that explore links between instrumental precipitation records from the region and conditions in the Pacific Ocean, the reconstructed records show that drier (wetter)-than-normal conditions are associated with El Niño (La Niña) events and the positive (negative) phase of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).

Corresponding author address: Dr. Emma Watson, Climate Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview, ON, M3H 5T4, Canada. Email: emma.watson@ec.gc.ca

Abstract

Extreme wet and dry intervals of the last 350 yr in the Canadian Cordillera and adjacent United States are examined using a network of 25 tree-ring-based precipitation and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) reconstructions. Reconstructed twentieth-century-mapped patterns compare well with patterns based on the instrumental records at both annual and decadal scales. During the most extreme events, dry conditions occurred over the entire area. The longest widespread drought in the last 350 yr occurred from 1917 to 1941. Shorter intervals of more severely dry conditions occurred in the early 1720s, 1750s, 1790s, 1860s–70s, and the 1890s. Many of the driest individual years and most extreme dry periods of <7 yr are reconstructed for the eighteenth century. The longest, wettest periods identified by these reconstructions occurred in the early twentieth century. In agreement with published studies that explore links between instrumental precipitation records from the region and conditions in the Pacific Ocean, the reconstructed records show that drier (wetter)-than-normal conditions are associated with El Niño (La Niña) events and the positive (negative) phase of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).

Corresponding author address: Dr. Emma Watson, Climate Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview, ON, M3H 5T4, Canada. Email: emma.watson@ec.gc.ca

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