Dynamics, variability, and change in seasonal precipitation reconstructions for North America

Journal of Climate
By: , and 



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 predictor chronologies are not significantly correlated with the alternate season and the reconstructions calibrate at least 40% of the variance in both December-April and May-July precipitation totals over a large portion of North America for up to 2,000-years. Validation statistics computed on independent instrumental precipitation data from 1901-1927 indicate that the December-April reconstructions are reliable over most of the western and southern United States and northcentral Mexico, and the May-July estimates are valid over most of the United States, southwest Canada, and northeast Mexico. 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, both 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 new insight into decadal droughts and pluvials. They indicate that the 16th 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- to 500-year 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 East that began due to natural forcing before the industrial revolution and may have recently been enhanced by anthropogenic climate change.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Dynamics, variability, and change in seasonal precipitation reconstructions for North America
Series title Journal of Climate
DOI 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0270.1
Volume 8
Issue 33
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher American Meteorological Society
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 23 p.
First page 3173
Last page 3195
Other Geospatial North America
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