Climatic Change

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 1-15

First online:

Northern North American Tree-Ring Evidence for Regional Temperature Changes after Major Volcanic Events

  • Rosanne D. D'ArrigoAffiliated withTree-Ring Laboratory, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • , Gordon C. JacobyAffiliated withTree-Ring Laboratory, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

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Maximum latewood density data from trees at thirteen temperature-sensitive sites along the northern treeline of North America are used to evaluate the spatial patterns of response to four known volcanic events just prior to the period of modern observations: in 1640, 1783, 1815 and 1835. A previously unknown event is also postulated for 1699. This tree-ring density parameter is used because it shows a stronger and more consistent short-term, temperature-related volcanic signal than ring width. Normalized density departures following these events vary in sign and magnitude from region to region, with the coldest summer conditions inferred for the Northwest Territories in 1641, Alaska in 1783, Quebec and Labrador in 1816 and the Northwest Territories in 1836. For these as well as other events, low density values are often among the most extreme on record at their respective locations. We suggest that these regional variations in tree growth reflect cooling induced by volcanism and the distribution of cooling influenced by atmospheric circulation patterns.