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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-2
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-2
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 16 Jan 2019

Research article | 16 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Drought during early European exploration and colonization of North America, 1500–1610CE: A comparison of evidence from the archives of societies and the archives of nature

Sam White Sam White
  • Depart of History, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 43125, USA

Abstract. This article presents the historical evidence concerning the occurrence of drought in North America from 1510–1610CE based on a comprehensive review of original written records concerning all early European expeditions into the present US and Canada. It compares this evidence from the archives of societies with maps and time series of drought generated from the tree ring-based North American Drought Atlas (NADA). This comparison demonstrates the reliability of early colonial historical records as sources of evidence concerning drought, as well as the applicability of the NADA to the scale of local and regional human historical events. The comparison further verifies the occurrence and societal impacts of certain major droughts previously identified in dendroclimatological studies, but suggests that some summer hydrological deficits indicated in the tree ring record reflect a deficiency of summer rather than winter precipitation. Finally, this review of evidence from both the archives of societies and archives of nature highlights the extraordinary challenges faced by early European explorers and colonists in North America due to climatic variability in an already unfamiliar and challenging environment.

Sam White
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Short summary
Researchers usually reconstruct droughts using natural proxies, such as tree-ring width, or else records left by people. This study examines parts of North America during the first European expeditions there (1510–1610CE). It compares drought reconstructions based on tree rings to records left by those expeditions and finds they mostly agree. Thus early colonial expeditions can provide reliable climate information and tree-ring reconstructions can capture variations relevant to human history.
Researchers usually reconstruct droughts using natural proxies, such as tree-ring width, or else...
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