El Niño and tree growth near Jerusalem over the last 20 years


Dan Yakir, Department of Environmental Sciences and Energy Research, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76 100, Israel. Fax +972/ 8-9344124, e-mail cyakir@-wiccmail.weizmann.ac.il


A strong correlation is observed between an El Niño index (anomalies in tropical Pacific sea surface temperature) and rainfall in the Judean foothills near Jerusalem over the past 20 years. These relationships clearly influenced the growth of local pine trees, as reflected in the width of their annual tree rings. The ability to predict El Niño events about a year in advance lend a special significance to relationships reported here for ecology, agriculture and water management in this climatic transition zone. To help explain the observed, long-range teleconnection we propose a possible mechanism based on a newly identified direct cloud connection between equatorial Africa (more directly affected by El Niño) and the Southeastern Mediterranean shoreland. The penetration and contribution of the moisture current from equatorial Africa to this region may depend on a shift in the usual rain generating moisture currents to southwesterly trajectories (passing over north Africa). The occurrence of such shifts is supported by the observed decrease in the mean 18O content of the local precipitation during El Nino winters.