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Dynamics, Variability, and Change in Seasonal Precipitation Reconstructions for North America

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  • 1 Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • 2 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York
  • 3 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee
  • 4 Department of Geography, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • 5 Centro Nacional de Investigacion Disciplinaria Relacion Agua-Suelo-Planta-Atmosfera, Lerdo, Mexico
  • 6 NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York
  • 7 Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 8 Department of Geography, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 9 Harvard Forest, Petersham, Massachusetts
  • 10 School of Geography and Development, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  • 11 U.S. Geological Survey, Bozeman, Montana
  • 12 Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
  • 13 Department of Geosciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • 14 U.S. Geological Survey, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
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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.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0270.s1.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: David W. Stahle, dstahle@uark.edu

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.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0270.s1.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: David W. Stahle, dstahle@uark.edu

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