, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 57-69
Date: 24 Nov 2004

Changes in European precipitation seasonality and in drought frequencies revealed by a four-century-long tree-ring isotopic record from Brittany, western France

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A new paleoclimatic reconstruction for western France is obtained from tree-ring cellulose stable isotopes. Living trees from Rennes Forest and beams from two ancient buildings in Rennes city have been combined to cover the past four centuries with a gap from 1730 to 1750. The cellulose δ13C reflects the progressive changes in atmospheric CO2 isotopic composition. The combined δ13C and δ18O measurements are used to propose a reconstruction of interannual fluctuations in local summer temperature and water stress. At the decadal time scale, the reconstructed water stress profile exhibits a significant similarity with the historical wine harvest dates, an indicator of warm and dry growth seasons, as well as with the summer central England and central Alps instrumental temperature records and climate model results. Combined with instrumental precipitation records from Paris, these reconstructions suggest a dramatic and widespread change in the seasonality of the precipitation at the beginning of the nineteenth century, with drier winters and wetter summers, which may have contributed to the Alpine glacier decline at the end of the Little Ice Age. The tree-ring isotope records also show a relationship with large-scale North Atlantic circulation changes and the interannual variability is modified between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (7–8 year periodicities) and the seventeenth century (11–14 year periodicities). By classifying 20-year-long subsets of the reconstructed climatic parameters, we estimate that a decadal mean summer warming of 0.8±0.1°C induced extreme dry years to be 2.2±0.7 times more frequent.