• dendrochronology;
  • tree-rings;
  • drought;
  • desertification

ABSTRACT: Water resources are the lifeblood of the Near East region. Careful planning and management of water resources in dry land regions requires information on the likelihood of extreme events, especially prolonged drought. It is essential to understand the variability of climate on time scales of decades to centuries to assign reasonable probabilities to such events. Tree-ring analysis is one way to increase our knowledge of the climate variability beyond the short period covered by the instrumental data. In this paper, we reconstruct October-May precipitation from a Juniperus phoenicia tree-ring chronology in southern Jordan to gain a long-term (A.D. 1600–1995) perspective on runs of dry years and on time series fluctuations in precipitation averaged over several years. The reconstruction equation derived by regression of log-transformed precipitation on tree-ring indices explains 44 percent of the variance of observed precipitation. The longest reconstructed drought, as defined by consecutive years below a threshold of 217.4 mm, was four years, compared with three years for the 1946–95 instrumental data. A Monte Carlo analysis designed to account for uncertainty in the reconstruction indicates a lower than 50 percent chance that the region has experienced drought longer than five years in the past 400 years.