Ocean-atmosphere forcing of centennial hydroclimate variability in the Pacific Northwest

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Abstract

Reconstructing centennial timescale hydroclimate variability during the late Holocene is critically important for understanding large-scale patterns of drought and their relationship with climate dynamics. We present sediment oxygen isotope records spanning the last two millennia from 10 lakes, as well as climate model simulations, indicating that the Little Ice Age was dry relative to the Medieval Climate Anomaly in much of the Pacific Northwest of North America. This pattern is consistent with observed associations between the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Northern Annular Mode, and drought as well as with proxy-based reconstructions of Pacific and Atlantic ocean-atmosphere variations over the past 1000-years the large amplitude of centennial variability indicated by the lake data suggests that regional hydroclimate is characterized by longer-term shifts in ENSO-like dynamics and that an improved understanding of the centennial timescale relationship between external forcing and drought is necessary for projecting future hydroclimatic conditions in western North America. Key Points Lake sediment isotope records exhibit coherent centennial timescale variability The Little Ice Age was dry in much of the Pacific Northwest Climate model simulations support drought patterns evinced by lake sediment data © 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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Steinman, B. A., Abbott, M. B., Mann, M. E., Ortiz, J. D., Feng, S., Pompeani, D. P., … Bird, B. W. (2014). Ocean-atmosphere forcing of centennial hydroclimate variability in the Pacific Northwest. Geophysical Research Letters, 41(7), 2553–2560. https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GL059499

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