Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 3–4, pp 1019–1039 | Cite as

A tree-ring reconstruction of East Anglian (UK) hydroclimate variability over the last millennium

  • Richard J. CooperEmail author
  • Thomas M. Melvin
  • Ian Tyers
  • Rob J. S. Wilson
  • Keith R. Briffa


We present an annually resolved reconstruction of spring-summer precipitation variability in East Anglia, UK (52–53°N, 0–2°E) for the period AD 900–2009. A continuous regional network of 723 living (AD 1590–2009) and historical (AD 781–1790) oak (Quercus sp.) ring-width series has been constructed and shown to display significant sensitivity to precipitation variability during the March-July season. The existence of a coherent common growth signal is demonstrated in oaks growing across East Anglia, containing evidence of near-decadal aperiodic variability in precipitation throughout the last millennium. Positive correlations are established between oak growth and precipitation variability across a large region of northwest Europe, although climate-growth relationships appear time transgressive with correlations significantly weakening during the early twentieth century. Examination of the relationship between oak growth, precipitation, and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), reveals no evidence that the NAO plays any significant role in the control of precipitation or tree growth in this region. Using Regional Curve Standardisation to preserve evidence of low-frequency growth variability in the East Anglian oak chronology, we produce a millennial length reconstruction that is capable of explaining 32–35% of annual-to-decadal regional-scale precipitation variance during 1901–2009. The full length reconstruction indicates statistically significant anomalous dry conditions during AD 900–1100 and circa-1800. An apparent prolonged wetter phase is estimated for the twelfth and thirteen centuries, whilst precipitation fluctuates between wetter and drier phases at near centennial timescales throughout the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. Above average precipitation reconstructed for the twenty-first century is comparable with that reproduced for the 1600s. The main estimated wet and dry phases reconstructed here appear largely coherent with an independent tree-ring reconstruction for southern-central England.


East Anglia Oak Tree-rings Precipitation Millennial reconstruction 



We thank the following individuals for kindly granting permission to core living oaks: John Milton of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust for Foxley Wood; Keith Zealand of the National Trust for the Felbrigg Hall estate; Anne Edwards, tree warden for Hethersett parish council for Hethersett; David Brady of the National Trust for the Blickling Hall estate; and owners or managers for earlier permission given to sample at the Sotterley Park, Babingley, and Sandringham estates. We are also grateful to Cathy Grooves and Jenny Hillam for provision of historical building timber series. Many thanks to Gerard van der Schrier of the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI) and David Lister of CRU for provision of the instrumental climate data, and contributors of paleoclimate and meteorological data to the NOAA (2012) World Data Center for Paleoclimatology and the KNMI Climate Explorer respectively. Discussions with Paul Krusic, Richard Cornes, and Kathleen Pribyl, and the insightful comments of referees (Ed Cook and anonymous) on a previous version of this text, were very helpful in finalising this paper. KRB and TMM acknowledge support from NERC (NE/G018863/1).

Supplementary material

382_2012_1328_MOESM1_ESM.docx (910 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 910 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard J. Cooper
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas M. Melvin
    • 2
  • Ian Tyers
    • 3
  • Rob J. S. Wilson
    • 4
  • Keith R. Briffa
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  3. 3.Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd.SheffieldUK
  4. 4.School of Geography and GeosciencesUniversity of St. AndrewsFifeUK

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