This study presents two independent reconstructions of precipitation from James Madison's Montpelier plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. The first is transcribed directly from meteorological diaries recorded by the Madison family for 17 years and reflects the scientific interests of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. In his most active period as a scientist, Madison assisted Jefferson by observing the climate and fauna in Virginia to counter the contemporary scientific view that the humid, cold climate of the New World decreased the size and number of its species. The second reconstruction is generated using tree rings from a forest in the Montpelier plantation and connects Madison's era to the modern instrumental precipitation record. These trees provide a significant reconstruction of both early summer and prior fall precipitation. Comparison of the dendroclimatic and diary reconstructions suggests a delay in the seasonality of precipitation from Madison's era to the mid-twentieth century. Furthermore, the dendroclimatic reconstructions of early summer and prior fall precipitation appear to track this shift in seasonality.
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia;
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas