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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 to20-30 yr) Pacific cool phase with a multidecadal warm phase in the North Atlantic, marked a substantial reorganization of climate in the Rocky Mountain region.

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Geophysical Research Letters




An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2003 American Geophysical Union.

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