Millennial precipitation reconstruction for the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico, reveals changingb drought signal

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Abstract

Drought is a recurring phenomenon in the American Southwest. Since the frequency and severity of hydrologic droughts and other hydroclimatic events are of critical importance to the ecology and rapidly growing human population of this region, knowledge of long-term natural hydroclimatic variability is valuable for resource managers and policy-makers. An October–June precipitation reconstruction for the period AD 824–2007 was developed from multi-century tree-ring records of Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir), Pinus strobiformis (Southwestern white pine) and Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa pine) for the Jemez Mountains in Northern New Mexico. Calibration and verification statistics for the period 1896–2007 show a high level of skill, and account for a significant portion of the observed variance (>50%) irrespective of which period is used to develop or verify the regression model. Split-sample validation supports our use of a reconstruction model based on the full period of reliable observational data (1896–2007). A recent segment of the reconstruction (2000–2006) emerges as the driest 7-year period sensed by the trees in the entire record. That this period was only moderately dry in precipitation anomaly likely indicates accentuated stress from other factors, such as warmer temperatures. Correlation field maps of actual and reconstructed October–June total precipitation, sea surface temperatures and 500-mb geopotential heights show characteristics that are similar to those indicative of El Niño–Southern Oscillation patterns, particularly with regard to ocean and atmospheric conditions in the equatorial and north Pacific. Our 1184-year reconstruction of hydroclimatic variability provides long-term perspective on current and 20th century wet and dry events in Northern New Mexico, is useful to guide expectations of future variability, aids sustainable water management, provides scenarios for drought planning and as inputs for hydrologic models under a broader range of conditions than those provided by historical climate records. Copyright © 2010 Royal Meteorological Society

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