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Medieval drought in the upper Colorado River Basin

Colorado River near Moab, Utah.  U.S. Bureau of Land Management photo. Medieval drought in the upper Colorado River Basin
Geophysical Research Letters
Vol. 34, L10705, 24 May 2007.

David M. Meko1, Connie A. Woodhouse2, Christopher A. Baisan1, Troy Knight1, Jeffrey J. Lukas3, Malcolm K. Hughes1, and Matthew W. Salzer1

1 Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
2 Department of Geography and Regional Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
3 Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

New tree-ring records of ring-width from remnant preserved wood are analyzed to extend the record of reconstructed annual flows of the Colorado River at Lee Ferry into the Medieval Climate Anomaly, when epic droughts are hypothesized from other paleoclimatic evidence to have affected various parts of western North America. The most extreme low-frequency feature of the new reconstruction, covering A.D. 762-2005, is a hydrologic drought in the mid-1100s. The drought is characterized by a decrease of more than 15% in mean annual flow averaged over 25 years, and by the absence of high annual flows over a longer period of about six decades. The drought is consistent in timing with dry conditions inferred from tree-ring data in the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau, but regional differences in intensity emphasize the importance of basin-specific paleoclimatic data in quantifying likely effects of drought on water supply.
Download data from the WDC Paleo archive:
Upper Colorado Flow Reconstructions in Text or Microsoft Excel format.
Supplementary Data 1. Tree ring chronology data and metadata
Supplementary Data 2. Tree ring measurements data, compressed .zip format
Note: Full tree ring data series are contained here. Reconstructions were based on shorter subsets meeting minimum sample size criteria.
Supplementary Data 3. Reconstruction statistics and references

To read or view the full study, please visit the AGU website.
It was published in Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 34, L10705, 24 May 2007.
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