AOC Seminar Abstract AOC Seminar Abstract

Date 10th May 2019
Speaker Ben Cook
Title Paleoclimate Perspectives on Climate Change and Drought

Tree-ring records for the last 2000 years provide a high resolution, spatiotemporal record of pre-industrial drought variability for much of the world. This information is rarely leveraged, however, in investigations of climate change and drought, and in this talk I will demonstrate the value of paleoclimate for such studies. First, I will discuss how, under a high emissions/warming scenario, climate change will likely increase drought risk and severity to unprecedented levels in the American Southwest and Central Plains by the end of the 21st century. These future drought events will likely be worse than even the driest megadrought centuries of the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Second, I will show how tree-ring records can be applied in a detection & attribution framework, which strongly suggests that a human forcing influence on hydroclimate at the near global scale is detectable above the background noise of natural variability as early as the first half of the 20th century. Tree-ring based paleoclimate reconstructions of drought represent a critical source of information that can be used to better characterize natural variability in the climate system, and can provide critical tools for contextualizing and understanding the impacts of climate change on drought now and into the future.