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

Rob Wilson, D. Miles, N. Loader, T. Melvin, Laura Cunningham, R. Cooper, K. Briffa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)997-1017
    Number of pages21
    JournalClimate Dynamics
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


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