Synoptic drivers of 400 years of summer temperature and precipitation variability on Mt. Olympus, Greece

Abstract

The Mediterranean region has been identified as a global warming hotspot, where future climate impacts are expected to have significant consequences on societal and ecosystem well-being. To put ongoing trends of summer climate into the context of past natural variability, we reconstructed climate from maximum latewood density (MXD) measurements of Pinus heldreichii (1521–2010) and latewood width (LWW) of Pinus nigra (1617–2010) on Mt. Olympus, Greece. Previous research in the northeastern Mediterranean has primarily focused on inter-annual variability, omitting any low-frequency trends. The present study utilizes methods capable of retaining climatically driven long-term behavior of tree growth. The LWW chronology corresponds closely to early summer moisture variability (May–July, r = 0.65, p < 0.001, 1950–2010), whereas the MXD-chronology relates mainly to late summer warmth (July–September, r = 0.64, p < 0.001; 1899–2010). The chronologies show opposing patterns of decadal variability over the twentieth century (r = −0.68, p < 0.001) and confirm the importance of the summer North Atlantic Oscillation (sNAO) for summer climate in the northeastern Mediterranean, with positive sNAO phases inducing cold anomalies and enhanced cloudiness and precipitation. The combined reconstructions document the late twentieth—early twenty-first century warming and drying trend, but indicate generally drier early summer and cooler late summer conditions in the period ~1700–1900 CE. Our findings suggest a potential decoupling between twentieth century atmospheric circulation patterns and pre-industrial climate variability. Furthermore, the range of natural climate variability stretches beyond summer moisture availability observed in recent decades and thus lends credibility to the significant drying trends projected for this region in current Earth System Model simulations.

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Acknowledgments

The authors like to thank Patrick Fonti, Jörg Franke and Greg King for their help during fieldwork, and Anne Verstege for her help with the MXD measurements. We also thank Paul Krusic for discussion and helpful comments on the text and acknowledge financial support from the NSF CAREER Award AGS-1349942 (VT) and SNF iTREE sinergia project 136295 (SK, DF).

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Klesse, S., Ziehmer, M., Rousakis, G. et al. Synoptic drivers of 400 years of summer temperature and precipitation variability on Mt. Olympus, Greece. Clim Dyn 45, 807–824 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2313-3

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Keywords

  • Tree ring
  • Summer North Atlantic Oscillation
  • Northeastern Mediterranean
  • Maximum latewood density
  • Summer climate reconstruction
  • Latewood width