Tree-ring data document 16th century megadrought over North America
Article first published online: 3 JUN 2011
©2000. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union
Volume 81, Issue 12, pages 121–125, 21 March 2000
How to Cite
2000), Tree-ring data document 16th century megadrought over North America, Eos Trans. AGU, 81(12), 121–125, doi:10.1029/00EO00076., , , , , , , and (
- Issue published online: 3 JUN 2011
- Article first published online: 3 JUN 2011
The two most severe, sustained droughts in the continental United States during the 20th century occurred in the 1930s and 1950s. The 1950s drought was most extreme over the southwest and southern Great Plains, where ecological consequences are still evident on the landscape [Swetnam and Betancourt], 1998].The Dust Bowl,vividly recounted in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, was the nations most severe, sustained,and widespread drought of the past 300 years, according to tree-ring reconstructions of the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI) across the continental United States [Cook et al., 1999] (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pdsiyear.html.
Droughts during the 1750s, 1820s, and 1850s–1860s estimated from tree rings were similar to the 1950s drought in terms of magnitude, persistence, and spatial coverage, but these earlier episodes do not appear to have surpassed the severity or extent of the Dust Bowl drought. However, longer tree-ring reconstructions of PDSI for the United States and precipitation for northwestern Mexico and western Canada indicate that the “megadrought” of the 16th century far exceeded any drought of the 20th century (Figure 1) [also see Wood-house and Overpeck, 1998], and is considered to be the most severe prolonged drought over much of North America for at least the last 500 years [Meko et al., 1995].