Gulf of Alaska atmosphere-ocean variability over recent centuries inferred from coastal tree-ring records

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Climatic Change
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Eight tree-ring chronologies from coastal sites along the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) are used to develop a 227-year (1762-1988) reconstruction of spring/summer (March-September) coastal land temperatures for the region. This reconstruction explains 35% of the variance in the instrumental temperature data. The tree-ring records and reconstruction reflect the documented 1976 transition from cold to warm conditions in the North Pacific and are consistent with regional temperature compilations. Three of the eight ring-width series, from elevational timberline sites where trees are particularly stressed by temperature, extend back to A.D. 1600 and are used to identify additional occurrences of such transitions. The first principal component (PC) scores of these three longer records are positively correlated with spring (March-May) land and sea surface temperatures for the GOA region and are used to reconstruct land surface temperatures. Decadal-scale fluctuations in the reconstructions show agreement with decade-long changes in the intensity of the Aleutian Low pressure cell over the past century, suggesting that the tree-ring data may provide an index of past circulation changes for the northeast Pacific. Blackman-Tukey spectral analyses of both reconstructions indicate significant power at 7-11 years, with additional peaks at 3 years for the spring/summer reconstruction and 19 years for the longer spring temperature series. The modes of variation at about 3 and 7 years may correspond to those associated with the El Nino-Southern Oscillation bandwidth, whereas the 19-year term may relate to a proposed 20-year cycle of North Pacific circulation. The spring temperature series shows generally increased growth over the past century, coinciding with warmer spring temperatures in south coastal Alaska over this interval. Comparison with the entire spring series suggests that the recent warming exceeds temperature levels of prior centuries, extending back to A.D. 1600.


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