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A 19th Century Climate Data Catalog for New England and Adjacent States

Raymond S. Bradley1
Alexey Kaplan2
Gregory A. Zielinski3

1University of Massachusetts, Amherst
2Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY
3Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies, University of Maine, Orono

Project duration: 03/01/03 02/28/05

The 19th century climate contains a range of extremes that includes the end of the so-called Little Ice Age and the beginning of a warming trend likely due, at least in part, to anthropogenically- induced increases in carbon dioxide. These and other climate events make this century particularly important for studies of climate variability and change. Information on 19th century climate comes from a number of disparate sources. In New England and adjacent states (that is, CT, RI, MA, VT, NH, ME, NY, PA, and NJ) there are many continuous climatic records that extend back into the mid-to late-19th century, with a few stations having maintained records for even longer periods. In addition, there are other early 19th century (and even 18th century) records that are discontinuous, plus numerous diaries and journals that extend back to the 17th and 18th centuries in some areas, with increasing coverage in the 19th century. High- resolution paleoclimatic data from tree rings are also available for the past 300 years. These three types of climate data overlap in the 19th century, and present an opportunity to generate a spatially and temporally detailed proxy/instrumental climate data catalog for this century. These data, when combined with the 20th century climate record, can produce a coherent 200-year record of climate variability for the northeastern United States. This period of time includes some of the coldest years as well as the warmest in the last 1000 years, periods of repeated drought, and anomalously wet conditions. It also encompasses a climate impacted by human activities as well as a broad range of natural variability. As such, it represents an interval of climate variability that is extremely useful for studying regional patterns of climate, relationships between major modes of climatic variation on decadal-scale (e.g., the PDO) and interannual climate (e.g., ENSO, NAO), and natural (e.g., volcanic, solar) as well as anthropogenic forcing mechanisms.

The work is a synthesis activity that will bring together existing instrumental, historical, and paleoclimatic data. The project is focused on New England and adjacent states, using complementary sets of instrumental, historical, and tree-ring data to provide a comprehensive network of 19th century data for the region. Exploratory techniques will assess the feasibility of using a mix of tree-ring, historical, and instrumental data to produce a regional, blended data set of long climate records for the entire 19th century. Our proposed work lays the primary groundwork for a 19th century data catalog for the entire United States, from paleoclimatic, historical, and instrumental data, that will ultimately be available online.

UMass Climate System Research Center Staff:

Paula Brown
Michael Griffith

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