Patterns and Sources of Multidecadal Oscillations in Drought-Sensitive Tree-Ring Records from the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains
journal contributionposted on 2003-03-26, 00:00 authored by S. T. Gray, J. L. Betancourt, C. L. Fastie, Stephen T. Jackson
Tree-ring records spanning the past seven centuries from the central and southern Rocky Mountains were studied using wavelet analysis to examine multidecadal (>30-70 yr) patterns of drought variation. Fifteen tree-ring series were grouped into five regional composite chronologies based on shared low-frequency behavior. Strong multidecadal phasing of moisture variation was present in all regions during the late 16th century megadrought. Oscillatory modes in the 30-70 yr domain persisted until the mid-19th century in two regions, and wet-dry cycles were apparently synchronous at some sites until the 1950s drought. The 16th/17th century pattern of severe multidecadal drought followed by decades of wet conditions resembles the 1950s drought and post-1976 wet period. The 16th century megadrought, which may have resulted from coupling of a decadal (similar to 20-30 yr) Pacific cool phase with a multidecadal warm phase in the North Atlantic, marked a substantial reorganization of climate in the Rocky Mountain region.