An examination of tropical cyclone precipitation regimes along coastal North Carolina, USA during 1750–2015 using a longleaf pine tree-ring record

Authors: Paul Knapp*, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Peter Soule', Appalachian State University, Justin Maxwell, Indiana University, Jason Ortegren, University of West Florida, Tyler Mitchell, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Biogeography
Keywords: Tropical cyclone precipitation, Dendroclimatology, Southeastern United States
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: Download

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) latewood ring widths effectively record the annual variability of tropical cyclone (TC) precipitation (TCP) accounting for 51% of the explained variance. Based on a regional chronology developed from five Carolina bay sand rim sites in coastal North Carolina, USA we reconstructed TCP during 1750–2015 to examine the: 1) temporal variability of multidecadal dry and wet TCP phases; 2) synoptic controls that contributed to an exceptionally dry period during 1843–1876; and, 3) effectiveness of using latewood to identify droughts independent of TCP. Six periods of alternating dry/wet phases occurred during the 250+ years in the reconstruction (duration range = 17–62 years) and the 1843–1876 period of exceptionally narrow latewood widths and low TCP values (i.e., the Great Suppression) was unmatched. The Great Suppression coincided with a period of anomalously low pressure over the southeastern USA at 500 hPa heights, which affects the steering of TCs preventing them from moving either near the coast or onshore. We found that while each dry phase was characterized by the persistence of steering lows, including the most recent (2006–2016) period absent of major landfalling TCs in the U.S., the Great Suppression was exceptional in intensity. Finally, variability in longleaf pine latewood widths do not reflect overall soil-moisture conditions, as neither narrow nor wide latewood widths are coincident with variations in non-TC-related precipitation. Rather, latewood growth flushes are associated with ephemeral periods of elevated water tables following high-intensity TC-related rainfall events.

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