Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 3–4, pp 997–1017 | Cite as

A millennial long March–July precipitation reconstruction for southern-central England

  • Rob WilsonEmail author
  • Dan Miles
  • Neil J. Loader
  • Tom Melvin
  • Laura Cunningham
  • Richard Cooper
  • Keith Briffa


We present a millennial long dendroclimatic reconstruction of spring/summer precipitation for southern-central England. Previous research identified a significant moisture stress signal in ring-width data measured from oak trees growing in southern England. In this study, we build upon this earlier work, specifically targeting south-central England, to derive a well replicated oak ring-width composite chronology using both living and historical material. The data-set includes 352 living trees (AD 1629–2009) and 1540 individual historical series (AD 663–1925). The period expressed by at least 50 trees in any year is AD 980–2009. Calibration experiments identify the optimal seasonal predictand target as March–July precipitation (1901–2007: r2 = 0.33). However, comparison with the long Kew Gardens precipitation record indicates a weakening in tree-growth/climate response from ~1800 to 1920 which we speculate may be related to smoke and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions at that time which may have also contributed to a decrease in tree productivity. The time-series derived using the regional curve standardisation method to capture lower frequency information shows a mediaeval period with alternating multi-decade-long dry and wet periods, with AD 1153–1172 being the wettest reconstructed 20-year period in the whole record. Drier conditions are prevalent from ~1300 to the early sixteenth century followed by a period of increasing precipitation levels. The most recent four centuries of the record appear similar to the mediaeval period with multiple decade-long dry and wet periods. The late twentieth century is the second reconstructed wettest period. These centennial hydroclimatic trends are in broad agreement with independent regional scale hydroclimatic reconstructions from tree-ring (East Anglia), historical, speleothem and peat water level proxy archives in the United Kingdom and appear coupled with reconstructed sea surface temperature changes in the North Atlantic which in turn influence the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and westerly airflow across the UK.


Hydroclimate Precipitation Reconstruction Tree-rings Oak Southern England 



This work was funded by the European Community (017008-2 MILLENNIUM). Many thanks to Peter Brimblecombe, University of East Anglia for discussion with regards to pollution proxies for England and Milos Rydval for undertaking the new ring-width measuring. Much of the historic tree-ring data utilised in this study have been published over the past 25 years either in Vernacular Architecture or various English Heritage reports in the Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report series, Centre for Archaeology Report series, and the Research Department Report Series. We are appreciative to the land owners and rangers who allowed the sampling of new and the updating of previously sampled oak woodlands—Oxford University for Wytham Woods; The University of Oxford and Oxford City Council for Brasenose Wood and Shotover Forest, with assistance of Ivan Wright of Shotover Wildlife; Sir Julian Rose of the Hardwick Estate for Hardwick woods, and J. J. Eyston Esq. of the Mapledurham Estate for the various trees over the Mapledurham Estate; Hampshire County Council and Jo Baker, Senior Ranger, for Crab Wood. We are indebted to Dr Martin Bridge, the Sheffield Dendrochronology Laboratory, and Nottingham Tree-Ring Laboratory for both published and unpublished data. Finally, we thank Ed Cook and two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive feedback on the initial submitted version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rob Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dan Miles
    • 2
  • Neil J. Loader
    • 3
  • Tom Melvin
    • 4
  • Laura Cunningham
    • 1
  • Richard Cooper
    • 5
  • Keith Briffa
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Geography and GeosciencesUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsScotland, UK
  2. 2.Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory, University of OxfordOxfordEngland, UK
  3. 3.Department of GeographySwansea UniversitySwanseaWales, UK
  4. 4.Climatic Research UnitUniversity of East AngliaNorwichEngland, UK
  5. 5.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichEngland, UK

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