Climate Dynamics

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 387–405 | Cite as

Five hundred years of gridded high-resolution precipitation reconstructions over Europe and the connection to large-scale circulation

  • Andreas PaulingEmail author
  • Jürg Luterbacher
  • Carlo Casty
  • Heinz Wanner


We present seasonal precipitation reconstructions for European land areas (30°W to 40°E/30–71°N; given on a 0.5°×0.5° resolved grid) covering the period 1500–1900 together with gridded reanalysis from 1901 to 2000 (Mitchell and Jones 2005). Principal component regression techniques were applied to develop this dataset. A large variety of long instrumental precipitation series, precipitation indices based on documentary evidence and natural proxies (tree-ring chronologies, ice cores, corals and a speleothem) that are sensitive to precipitation signals were used as predictors. Transfer functions were derived over the 1901–1983 calibration period and applied to 1500–1900 in order to reconstruct the large-scale precipitation fields over Europe. The performance (quality estimation based on unresolved variance within the calibration period) of the reconstructions varies over centuries, seasons and space. Highest reconstructive skill was found for winter over central Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. Precipitation variability over the last half millennium reveals both large interannual and decadal fluctuations. Applying running correlations, we found major non-stationarities in the relation between large-scale circulation and regional precipitation. For several periods during the last 500 years, we identified key atmospheric modes for southern Spain/northern Morocco and central Europe as representations of two precipitation regimes. Using scaled composite analysis, we show that precipitation extremes over central Europe and southern Spain are linked to distinct pressure patterns. Due to its high spatial and temporal resolution, this dataset allows detailed studies of regional precipitation variability for all seasons, impact studies on different time and space scales, comparisons with high-resolution climate models as well as analysis of connections with regional temperature reconstructions.


North Atlantic Oscillation Winter Precipitation Precipitation Variability Precipitation Reconstruction Verification Period 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work is part of the EU-project SOAP: simulations, observations and palaeoclimate (data: climate variability over the last 500 years) the Swiss part being funded by the Staatssekretariat für Bildung und Forschung (SBF) under contract 01.0560. Publication of this work was also supported by the Marchese Francesco Medici del Vascello foundation. Jürg Luterbacher is supported by the Swiss National Science foundation through its National Center of Competence in Research in Climate program, project PALVAREX. Carlo Casty is funded by the European Commission under the Fifth Framework Programme Contract Nr. EVR1-2002-000413, project PACLIVA. The predictand data has been kindly provided by the Climatic Research Unit in Norwich, United Kingdom, and by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The authors also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, Anita Orme for English corrections and the following persons for access to their data: Rudolf Brázdil, Michael Grabner, Hans Linderholm, Walter Oberhuber, Rob Wilson (all tree-ring data), Mariano Barriendos, Rudolf Brázdil, Rüdiger Glaser, Christian Pfister, Lajos Rácz, Fernando Rodrigo, Elena Xoplaki (all documentary data) and also many data contributors to the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Supplementary material

382_2005_90_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (836 kb)
Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Pauling
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jürg Luterbacher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carlo Casty
    • 3
  • Heinz Wanner
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of GeographyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) in ClimateBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics InstituteUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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