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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
16 Mar 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Climate of the Past (CP) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Millennial-to-centennial patterns and trends in the hydroclimate of North America over the past 2000 years
Bryan N. Shuman1, Cody Routson2, Nicholas McKay2, Sherilyn Fritz3, Darrell Kaufman2, Matthew E. Kirby4, Connor Nolan5, Gregory T. Pederson6, and Jeannine-Marie St-Jacques7 1Roy J. Shlemon Center for Quaternary Studies, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, 82071, USA
2School of Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, 86011, USA
3Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588, USA
4Department of Geological Sciences, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, California 92834, USA
5Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Arizona, 85721, USA
6Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Bozeman, Montana, 59715, USA
7Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1M8, Canada
Abstract. A synthesis of 93 hydrologic records from across North and Central America, and adjacent tropical and Arctic islands, reveals centennial to millennial trends in the regional hydroclimates of the Common Era (CE; past 2000 years). The hydrological records derive from materials stored in lakes, bogs, caves, and ice from extant glaciers, which have the continuity through time to preserve low-frequency (> 100 year) climate signals that may not be well represented by other shorter-lived archives, such as tree-ring chronologies. The most common pattern, represented in 46 (49 %) of the records, indicates that the centuries before 1000 CE were drier than the centuries since that time. Principal components analysis indicates that millennial-scale trends represent the dominant pattern of variance in the southwest and northeast U.S., the mid-continent, Pacific Northwest, the Arctic, and the tropics, although not all records within a region show the same direction of change. The Pacific Northwest, Greenland, and the southernmost tier of the tropical sites tended to dry toward present, as many other areas became wetter than before. Twenty-two records (24 %) indicate that the Medieval period (800–1300 CE) was drier than the Little Ice Age (1400–1900 CE), but in many cases the difference was part of the longer millennial-scale trend, and, in 25 records (27 %), the Medieval period represented a pluvial (wet) phase. Where quantitative records permitted a comparison, we found that centennial-scale fluctuations over the Common Era represented changes of 3–7 % of the modern inter-annual range of variability in precipitation, but the accumulation of these long-term trends over the entirety of the Holocene caused recent centuries to be significantly wetter, on average, than most of the past 11 000 years.
Citation: Shuman, B. N., Routson, C., McKay, N., Fritz, S., Kaufman, D., Kirby, M. E., Nolan, C., Pederson, G. T., and St-Jacques, J.-M.: Millennial-to-centennial patterns and trends in the hydroclimate of North America over the past 2000 years, Clim. Past Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Bryan N. Shuman et al.
Bryan N. Shuman et al.


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Short summary
A synthesis of 93 published records reveals that moisture availability increased over large portions of North America over the past 2000 years, the Common Era (CE). In many records, the second millennium CE tended to be wetter than the first millennium CE. The long-term changes formed the background for annual to multi-decade variations, such as mega-droughts, and also provide a context for amplified rates of hydrologic change today.
A synthesis of 93 published records reveals that moisture availability increased over large...