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  1. Abstract

    The history of the Polynesian civilization on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) over the Common Era has come to exemplify the fragile relationship humans have with their environment. Social dynamics, deforestation, land degradation, and climatic shifts have all been proposed as important parts of the settlement history and societal transformations on Rapa Nui. Furthermore, climate dynamics of the Southeast Pacific have major global implications. While the wetlands of Rapa Nui contain critical sedimentological archives for reconstructing past hydrological change on the island, connections between the island’s hydroclimate and fundamental aspects of regional climatology are poorly understood. Here we present a hydroclimatology of Rapa Nui showing that there is a clear seasonal cycle of precipitation, with wet months receiving almost twice as much precipitation as dry months. This seasonal cycle can be explained by the seasonal shifts in the location and strength of the climatological south Pacific subtropical anticyclone. For interannual precipitation variability, we find that the occurrence of infrequent, large rain events explains 92% of the variance of the observed annual mean precipitation time series. Approximately one third (33%) of these events are associated with atmospheric rivers, 21% are associated with classic cold-front synoptic systems, and the remainder are characterizedmore »by cut-off lows and other synoptic-scale storm systems. As a group, these large rain events are most strongly controlled by the longitudinal position of the south Pacific subtropical anticyclone. The longitudinal location of this anticyclone explains 21% of the variance in the frequency of large rain events, while the remaining variance is left unexplained by any other major atmosphere-ocean dynamics. We find that over the observational era there appears to be no linear relationship between the number of large rain events and any other major climate phenomena. With the south Pacific subtropical anticyclone projected to strengthen and expand westward under global warming, our results imply that Rapa Nui will experience an increase in the number of dry years in the future.

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  2. Abstract. The South American Summer Monsoon (SASM) is the maindriver of regional hydroclimate variability across tropical and subtropicalSouth America. It is best recorded on paleoclimatic timescales by stableoxygen isotope proxies, which are more spatially representative of regionalhydroclimate than proxies for local precipitation alone. Network studies ofproxies that can isolate regional influences lend particular insight intovarious environmental characteristics that modulate hydroclimate, such asatmospheric circulation variability and changes in the regional energybudget as well as understanding the climate system sensitivity to externalforcings. We extract the coherent modes of variability of the SASM over thelast millennium (LM) using a Monte Carlo empirical orthogonal function(MCEOF) decomposition of 14 δ18O proxy records and compare themwith modes decomposed from isotope-enabled climate model data. The twoleading modes reflect the isotopic variability associated with (1) thermodynamic changes driving the upper-tropospheric monsoon circulation(Bolivian High–Nordeste Low waveguide) and (2) the latitudinaldisplacement of the South Atlantic Convergence Zone (SACZ). The spatialcharacteristics of these modes appear to be robust features of the LMhydroclimate over South America and are reproduced both in the proxy dataand in isotope-enabled climate models, regardless of the nature of themodel-imposed external forcing. The proxy data document that the SASM wascharacterized by considerable temporal variability throughout the LM, withsignificant departures from themore »mean state during both the Medieval ClimateAnomaly (MCA) and the Little Ice Age (LIA). Model analyses during theseperiods suggest that the local isotopic composition of precipitation isprimarily a reflection of upstream rainout processes associated with monsoonconvection. Model and proxy data both point to an intensification of themonsoon during the LIA over the central and western parts of tropical SouthAmerica and indicate a displacement of the South Atlantic Convergence Zone(SACZ) to the southwest. These centennial-scale changes in monsoon intensityover the LM are underestimated in climate models, complicating theattribution of changes on these timescales to specific forcings and pointingtoward areas of important model development.« less
  3. Streamflow often increases after fire, but the persistence of this effect and its importance to present and future regional water resources are unclear. This paper addresses these knowledge gaps for the western United States (WUS), where annual forest fire area increased by more than 1,100% during 1984 to 2020. Among 72 forested basins across the WUS that burned between 1984 and 2019, the multibasin mean streamflow was significantly elevated by 0.19 SDs ( P < 0.01) for an average of 6 water years postfire, compared to the range of results expected from climate alone. Significance is assessed by comparing prefire and postfire streamflow responses to climate and also to streamflow among 107 control basins that experienced little to no wildfire during the study period. The streamflow response scales with fire extent: among the 29 basins where >20% of forest area burned in a year, streamflow over the first 6 water years postfire increased by a multibasin average of 0.38 SDs, or 30%. Postfire streamflow increases were significant in all four seasons. Historical fire–climate relationships combined with climate model projections suggest that 2021 to 2050 will see repeated years when climate is more fire-conducive than in 2020, the year currently holdingmore »the modern record for WUS forest area burned. These findings center on relatively small, minimally managed basins, but our results suggest that burned areas will grow enough over the next 3 decades to enhance streamflow at regional scales. Wildfire is an emerging driver of runoff change that will increasingly alter climate impacts on water supplies and runoff-related risks.« less
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  5. Northwestern Europe has experienced a trend of increasingly wet winters over the past 150 years, with few explanations for what may have driven this hydroclimatic change. Here we use the Old World Drought Atlas (OWDA), a tree-ring based reconstruction of the self-calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index (scPDSI), to examine this wetting trend and place it in a longer hydroclimatic context. We find that scPDSI variability in northwestern Europe is strongly correlated with the leading mode of the OWDA during the last millennium (1000–2012). This leading mode, here named the ‘English Channel’ (EC) mode, has pronounced variability on interannual to centennial timescales and has an expression in scPDSI similar to that of the East Atlantic teleconnection pattern. A shift in the EC mode from a prolonged negative phase to more neutral conditions during the 19th and 20th centuries is associated with the wetting trend over its area of influence in England, Wales, and much of northern continental Europe. The EC mode is the dominant scPDSI mode from approximately 1000–1850, after which its dominance waned in favor of the secondary ‘North–South’ (NS) mode, which has an expression in scPDSI similar to that of the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). We examine themore »dynamical nature of both of these modes and how they vary on interannual to centennial timescales. Our results provide insight into the nature of hydroclimate variability in Europe before the widespread availability of instrumental observations.« less