, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 75-98
Date: 16 Jun 2005

Reconstructions of spring/summer precipitation for the Eastern Mediterranean from tree-ring widths and its connection to large-scale atmospheric circulation

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Abstract

This study represents the first large-scale systematic dendroclimatic sampling focused on developing chronologies from different species in the eastern Mediterranean region. Six reconstructions were developed from chronologies ranging in length from 115 years to 600 years. The first reconstruction (1885–2000) was derived from principal components (PCs) of 36 combined chronologies. The remaining five, 1800–2000, 1700–2000, 1600–2000, 1500–2000 and 1400–2000 were developed from PCs of 32, 18, 14, 9, and 7 chronologies, respectively. Calibration and verification statistics for the period 1931–2000 show good levels of skill for all reconstructions. The longest period of consecutive dry years, defined as those with less than 90% of the mean of the observed May–August precipitation, was 5 years (1591–1595) and occurred only once during the last 600 years. The longest reconstructed wet period was 5 years (1601–1605 and 1751–1755). No long term trends were found in May–August precipitation during the last few centuries. Regression maps are used to identify the influence of large-scale atmospheric circulation on regional precipitation. In general, tree-ring indices are influenced by May–August precipitation, which is driven by anomalous below (above) normal pressure at all atmospheric levels and by convection (subsidence) and small pressure gradients at sea level. These atmospheric conditions also control the anomaly surface air temperature distribution which indicates below (above) normal values in the southern regions and warmer (cooler) conditions north of around 40°N. A compositing technique is used to extract information on large-scale climate signals from extreme wet and dry summers for the second half of the twentieth century and an independent reconstruction over the last 237 years. Similar main modes of atmospheric patterns and surface air temperature distribution related to extreme dry and wet summers were identified both for the most recent 50 years and the last 237 years. Except for the last few decades, running correlation analyses between the major European-scale circulation patterns and eastern Mediteranean spring/summer precipitation over the last 237 years are non-stationary and insignificant, suggesting that local and/or sub-regional geographic factors and processes are important influences on tree-ring variability over the last few centuries.