Climatic significance of the bristlecone pine latewood frost-ring record at Almagre Mountain, Colorado, U.S.A.

Arctic and Alpine Research



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From 1900 to 1993, latewood frost rings occurred in 1903, 1912, 1941, 1961, and 1965 in 10 to 21% of the sampled bristlecone pines at Almagre Mountain, Colorado. In early to mid September in each of those years, a severe outbreak of unseasonably cold air from higher latitudes produced a memorable or historic late-summer snowstorm in the western United States. Record subfreezing temperatures during these snowstorms probably caused the latewood frost rings, shortened (by about 1 mo in 1912) already colder than normal growing seasons, and caused crop damage in parts of the Western United States. Latewood frost rings recorded in relatively high percentages of the sampled trees (such as the 1805 event in 61% of sampled trees) were probably caused by multiple severe outbreaks of unseasonably cold air from higher latitudes that occurred from early September (possibly as early as mid- or late August) to mid-September. Analyses of 1900-1992 temperature data for two widely separated Colorado stations, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, show that average summer (June-September) temperatures during latewood frost-ring years in this century were 1.5 and 2.0??C cooler than normal, respectively. Mountain snowpack probably persisted through these cool summers and was subsequently buried by the earlier than normal snowfall in September. Latewood frost-ring, ring-width, historical, and other data suggest that severe to cataclysmic volcanic eruptions from 1812 to 1835 triggered (1) an extended period of climatic cooling from as early as 1816 or 1817 through the early 1850s in the Southern Rocky Mountains, (2) catastrophic winters in Colorado and Wyoming in 1842-43 and 1844-45, and in the Great Salt Lake Basin in 1836-37, that caused large-scale destruction of bison and other large plains animals, and (3) Little Ice Age alpine glacial advances in about 1850-60 in the western United States.

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Climatic significance of the bristlecone pine latewood frost-ring record at Almagre Mountain, Colorado, U.S.A.
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Arctic and Alpine Research
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Arctic and Alpine Research
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