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Edward R. Cook, David M. Meko, David W. Stahle, and Malcolm K. Cleaveland

Abstract

The development of a 2° lat × 3° long grid of summer drought reconstructions for the continental United States estimated from a dense network of annual tree-ring chronologies is described. The drought metric used is the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). The number of grid points is 154 and the reconstructions cover the common period 1700–1978. In producing this grid, an automated gridpoint regression method called “point-by-point regression” was developed and tested. In so doing, a near-optimal global solution was found for its implementation. The reconstructions have been thoroughly tested for validity using PDSI data not used in regression modeling. In general, most of the gridpoint estimates of drought pass the verification tests used. In addition, the spatial features of drought in the United States have been faithfully recorded in the reconstructions even though the method of reconstruction is not explicitly spatial in its design.

The drought reconstructions show that the 1930s “Dust Bowl” drought was the most severe such event to strike the United States since 1700. Other more local droughts are also revealed in the regional patterns of drought obtained by rotated principal component analysis. These reconstructions are located on a NOAA Web site at the World Data Center-A in Boulder, Colorado, and can be freely downloaded from there.

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Daniel L. Druckenbrod, Michael E. Mann, David W. Stahle, Malcolm K. Cleaveland, Matthew D. Therrell, and Herman H. Shugart

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.

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Carlos Le Quesne, David W. Stahle, Malcolm K. Cleaveland, Matthew D. Therrell, Juan Carlos Aravena, and Jonathan Barichivich

Abstract

An expanded network of moisture-sensitive tree-ring chronologies has been developed for central Chile from long-lived cypress trees in the Andean Cordillera. A regional ring width chronology of cypress sites has been used to develop well-calibrated and verified estimates of June–December precipitation totals for central Chile extending from a.d. 1200 to 2000. These reconstructions are confirmed in part by historical references to drought in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and by nineteenth-century observations on the position of the Río Cipreses glacier. Analyses of the return intervals between droughts in the instrumental and reconstructed precipitation series indicate that the probability of drought has increased dramatically during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, consistent with selected long instrumental precipitation records and with the general recession of glaciers in the Andean Cordillera. This increased drought risk has occurred along with the growing demand on surface water resources and may heighten socioeconomic sensitivity to climate variability in central Chile.

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David W. Stahle, Edward R. Cook, Dorian J. Burnette, Max C. A. Torbenson, Ian M. Howard, Daniel Griffin, Jose Villanueva Diaz, Benjamin I. Cook, A. Park Williams, Emma Watson, David J. Sauchyn, Neil Pederson, Connie A. Woodhouse, Gregory T. Pederson, David Meko, Bethany Coulthard, and Christopher J. Crawford

Abstract

Cool- and warm-season precipitation totals have been reconstructed on a gridded basis for North America using 439 tree-ring chronologies correlated with December–April totals and 547 different chronologies correlated with May–July totals. These discrete seasonal chronologies are not significantly correlated with the alternate season; the December–April reconstructions are skillful over most of the southern and western United States and north-central Mexico, and the May–July estimates have skill over most of the United States, southwestern Canada, and northeastern Mexico. Both the strong continent-wide El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal embedded in the cool-season reconstructions and the Arctic Oscillation signal registered by the warm-season estimates faithfully reproduce the sign, intensity, and spatial patterns of these ocean–atmospheric influences on North American precipitation as recorded with instrumental data. The reconstructions are included in the North American Seasonal Precipitation Atlas (NASPA) and provide insight into decadal droughts and pluvials. They indicate that the sixteenth-century megadrought, the most severe and sustained North American drought of the past 500 years, was the combined result of three distinct seasonal droughts, each bearing unique spatial patterns potentially associated with seasonal forcing from ENSO, the Arctic Oscillation, and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. Significant 200–500-yr-long trends toward increased precipitation have been detected in the cool- and warm-season reconstructions for eastern North America. These seasonal precipitation changes appear to be part of the positive moisture trend measured in other paleoclimate proxies for the eastern area that began as a result of natural forcing before the industrial revolution and may have recently been enhanced by anthropogenic climate change.

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