• drought;
  • modeling;
  • meteorology/climatology;
  • dendro-hydrology;
  • Sacramento River

ABSTRACT: A time series of annual flow of the Sacramento River, California, is reconstructed to A.D. 869 from tree rings for a long-term perspective on hydrologic drought. Reconstructions derived by principal components regression of flow on time-varying subsets of tree-ring chronologies account for 64 to 81 percent of the flow variance in the 1906 to 1977 calibration period. A Monte Carlo analysis of reconstructed n-year running means indicates that the gaged record contains examples of drought extremes for averaging periods of perhaps = 6 to 10 years, but not for longer and shorter averaging periods. For example, the estimated probability approaches 1.0 that the flow in A.D. 1580 was lower than the lowest single-year gaged flow. The tree-ring record also suggests that persistently high or low flows over 50-year periods characterize some parts of the long-term flow history. The results should contribute to sensible water resources planning for the Sacramento Basin and to the methodology of incorporating tree-ring data in the assessment of the probability of hydrologic drought.