Saturday, May 31, 2014

New paper finds the 17th century had more extreme weather than the 20th century

A new paper published in Climate Dynamics reconstructs Fennoscandian floods and droughts over the past 1,000 years and finds the 17th century [during the Little Ice Age] was the most extreme "period of frequent severe and widespread hydroclimatic anomalies" over the past millennium.

However, droughts, floods, and extreme weather in the 20th century were not found to be unusual or extreme in comparison to the past 1,000 years. 
"The twentieth century is not anomalous in terms of the number of severe and spatially extensive hydro climatic extremes in the context of the last millennium."
The paper adds to hundreds of other peer-reviewed publications finding there is nothing unusual, unprecedented or unnatural with respect to extreme weather, droughts, and floods during the past century in comparison to the past millennium. In addition to this paper, many other studies find that droughts and floods were more extreme during cold periods such as the Little Ice Age in comparison to warm periods.

A tree-ring field reconstruction of Fennoscandian summer hydroclimate variability for the last millennium

Kristina Seftigen, Jesper Björklund, Edward R. Cook, Hans W. Linderholm

Hydroclimatological extremes, such as droughts and floods, are expected to increase in frequency and intensity with global climate change. An improved knowledge of its natural variability and the underlying physical mechanisms for changes in the hydrological cycle will help understand the response of extreme hydroclimatic events to climate warming. This study presents the first gridded hydroclimatic reconstruction (0.5° × 0.5° grid resolution), as expressed by the warm season Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), for most of Fennoscandia. A point-by-point regression approach is used to develop the reconstruction from a network of moisture sensitive tree-ring chronologies spanning over the past millennium. The reconstruction gives a unique opportunity to examine the frequency, severity, persistence, and spatial characteristics of Fennoscandian hydroclimatic variability in the context of the last 1,000 years. The full SPEI reconstruction highlights the seventeenth century as a period of frequent severe and widespread hydroclimatic anomalies. Although some severe extremes have occurred locally throughout the domain over the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the period is surprisingly free from any spatially extensive anomalies. The twentieth century is not anomalous in terms of the number of severe and spatially extensive hydro climatic extremes in the context of the last millennium. Principle component analysis reveals that there are two dominant modes of spatial moisture variability across Fennoscandia. The same patterns are evident in the observational record and in the reconstructed dataset over the instrumental era and two paleoperiods. The 500 mb pressure patterns associated with the two modes suggests the importance of the summer North Atlantic Oscillation.

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