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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-2020-31
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2020-31
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 20 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 20 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Sampling density and date influence spatial representation of tree ring reconstructions

Justin T. Maxwell1,2, Grant L. Harley3, Trevis J. Matheus4, Brandon M. Strange5, Kayla Van Aken6, Tsun Fung Au1, and Joshua C. Bregy1,7 Justin T. Maxwell et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Indiana University
  • 2Harvard Forest, Harvard University
  • 3Department of Geography, University of Idaho
  • 4Department of Geography and the Environment, California State University, Fullerton
  • 5School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona
  • 6School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences, University of Southern Mississippi
  • 7Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Indiana University

Abstract. Our understanding of the natural variability of hydroclimate before the instrumental period (ca. 1900 in the United States; US) is largely dependent on tree-ring-based reconstructions. Large-scale soil moisture reconstructions from a network of tree-ring chronologies have greatly improved our understanding of the spatial and temporal variability in hydroclimate conditions, particularly extremes of both drought and pluvial (wet) events. However, certain regions within these large-scale reconstructions in the US have a sparse network of tree-ring chronologies. Further, several chronologies were collected in the 1980s and 1990s, thus our understanding of the sensitivity of radial growth to soil moisture in the US is based on a period that experienced multiple extremely severe droughts and neglects the impacts of recent, rapid global change. In this study, we expanded the tree-ring network of the Ohio River Valley in the US, a region with sparse coverage. We used a total of 72 chronologies across 15 species to examine how increasing the density of the tree-ring network influences the representation of reconstructing the Palmer Meteorological Drought Index (PMDI). Further, we tested how the sampling date influenced the reconstruction models by creating reconstructions that ended in the year 1980 and compared them to reconstructions ending in 2010 from the same chronologies. We found that increasing the density of the tree-ring network resulted in reconstructed values that better matched the spatial variability of instrumentally recorded droughts and to a lesser extent, pluvials. By sampling tree in 2010 compared to 1980, the sensitivity of tree rings to PMDI decreased in the southern portion of our region where severe drought conditions have been absent over recent decades. We emphasize the need of building a high-density tree-ring network to better represent the spatial variability of past droughts and pluvials. Further, chronologies on the International Tree-Ring Data Bank need updating regularly to better understand how the sensitivity of tree rings to climate may vary through time.

Justin T. Maxwell et al.

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Justin T. Maxwell et al.

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Short summary
We found that increasing the density of chronologies in the tree-ring network resulted in estimated soil moisture conditions that better matched the spatial variability of the values that were instrumentally recorded for droughts and to a lesser extent, pluvials. By sampling trees in 2010 compared to 1980, the sensitivity of tree rings to soil moisture decreased in the southern portion of our region where severe drought conditions have been absent over recent decades.
We found that increasing the density of chronologies in the tree-ring network resulted in...
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