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Noah, Joseph, And High-Resolution Paleoclimatology

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In 1968, Benoit Mandelbrot and James Wallis published an article titled ‘Noah, Joseph, and operational Hydrology’ in the journal Water Resources Research. In it, they argued that hydrological models of the day were not able to estimate the true risk of extreme floods or prolonged drought, and that rare hydrological events were much more common than usually assumed.

In this lecture, I’ll review how high-resolution paleoenvironmental archives can help us judge more accurately the risks posed by the ‘Noah’- and ‘Joseph’-style events described by Mandelbrot and Wallis. I’ll give particular emphasis to the environmental information recovered from the rings of ancient trees, and explain how dendrochronology (tree-ring research) has been used to redefine the ‘flood of record’, test potential avenues for long-lead climate predictions, and gage the performance of state-of-the-art climate models.

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Noah, Joseph, And High-Resolution Paleoclimatology

  1. 1. NOAH, JOSEPH, AND HIGH-RESOLUTION PALEOCLIMATOLOGY Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University | February 4, 2015 Sco St. George University of Minnesota
  2. 2. Benoit Mandelbrot March 2007
  3. 3. Source: NASA/GSFC/JPL, MISR Team
  4. 4. RANDOM GAUSSIAN +
  5. 5. “JOSEPH-WILD” BEHAVIOR
  6. 6. WE SHALL SPEAK OF “JOSEPH-WILD” BEHAVIOR WHEN THE WETTEST DECADE WITHIN A CENTURY INCLUDES AN EXTRAORDINARY “TERM” OF WET YEARS. “ ” Mandelbrot and Wallis, 1968 Water Resources Research
  7. 7. “NOAH-WILD” BEHAVIOR
  8. 8. WE SHALL SPEAK OF “NOAH-WILD” BEHAVIOR WHEN A FEW OF THE YEARS WITHIN THE CENTURY WITNESS “FLOODS” SO MAJOR SO AS TO AFFECT THE AVERAGE PRECIPITATION FOR PERIODS OF MANY YEARS WITHIN WHICH THE FLOOD YEARS OCCURRED. “ ” Mandelbrot and Wallis, 1968 Water Resources Research
  9. 9. “IDIOSYNCRASIES”
  10. 10. Source: Baillie, Journal of Econometrics, 1996 TREE RINGS AS CASE STUDIES IN ECONOMETRICS
  11. 11. 80o S 60o S 40o S 0o S 0o N 40o N 60 o N 80 o N PAGES 2K network (Phase 2) as of 21Jan2015 (911 records from 758 sites)PAGES2K NETWORK (PHASE 2) Source: Dr. Nick McKay, Northern Arizona University
  12. 12. WATERSHED REGION HEMISPHERE
  13. 13. 1SETTING THE RECORD ON THE RED
  14. 14. 2THE CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST: SIGNAL OR QUIRK?
  15. 15. 3THE DECADAL CLIMATE CONUNDRUM
  16. 16. RINGS IN THE BRANCHES OF SAWED TREES SHOW THE NUMBER OF YEARS AND, ACCORDING TO THEIR THICKNESS, THE YEARS WHICH WERE MORE OR LESS DRY. “ ” Leonardo da Vinci
  17. 17. HOW MANY TREE RINGS CAN YOU COUNT?
  18. 18. Source: Dr. Dan Griffin, University of Minnesota
  19. 19. 1871 1872 1873 1874 Source: Dr. Dan Griffin, University of Minnesota
  20. 20. Dr. Dan Griffin University of Minnesota
  21. 21. Source: Dr. Dan Griffin, University of Minnesota
  22. 22. Sarah Appleton University of Minnesota
  23. 23. Source: Sarah Appleton, University of Minnesota
  24. 24. 1809 1811 181218081807 Source: Sarah Appleton, University of Minnesota
  25. 25. WATERSHED REGION HEMISPHERE
  26. 26. 1SETTING THE RECORD ON THE RED
  27. 27. FFAFLOOD FREQUENCY ANALYSIS
  28. 28. Source: Todhunter, Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, 2012 MAXIMUM FLOOD ESTIMATES ARE STRONGLY INFLUENCED BY THE VERY LARGEST FLOODS
  29. 29. Source: FlickrLiren Chen THE RED RIVER OF THE NORTH
  30. 30. THE RED RIVER OF THE NORTH
  31. 31. Source: AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Lt. Brendan Evans 2009
  32. 32. Source: Dr. Greg Brooks, Geological Survey of Canada 1997
  33. 33. 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000 2020 0 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 120,000 140,000 discharge (cfs) at Grand Forks, North Dakota INSTRUMENTAL DISCHARGE RECORDS BEGAN IN THE 1890S/1900S
  34. 34. THE RED RIVER SETTLEMENT
  35. 35. TOP TEN RED RIVER FLOODS BY DISCHARGE 0 60,000 120,000 180,000 240,000 2006 1996 1979 1950 2011 1861 2009 1997 1852 1826 discharge (cfs) Source: Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship historical reports river gauges
  36. 36. THE FORTS NOW STAND LIKE A CASTLE OF ROMANCE IN THE MIDST OF AN OCEAN OF DEEP CONTENDING CURRENTS, THE WATER EXTENDING FOR AT LEAST A MILE BEHIND THEM… “ ” Francis Heron of the Hudson’s Bay Company May 1826
  37. 37. IS THERE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE FOR THIS EXCEPTIONAL FLOOD?
  38. 38. 24 OAK TREE RINGS (NORMAL ANATOMY)
  39. 39. 28 OAK TREE RINGS (SHRUNKEN VESSELS) 2009
  40. 40. 200
  41. 41. 1875
  42. 42. Source: Dr. Erik Nielsen, Manitoba Geological Survey
  43. 43. 53 Source: Dr. Erik Nielsen, Manitoba Geological Survey
  44. 44. 1852
  45. 45. 55 Source: St. George and Nielsen, The Holocene, 2003 1826
  46. 46. Source: St. George and Nielsen, The Holocene, 2003 350 YEARS OF RED RIVER FLOODS
  47. 47. Dr. Victor Baker University of Arizona
  48. 48. THE HISTORY OF PAST FLOODS, NOT THE HISTORICAL IDEALIZATION OF THEIR FUTURE POSSIBILITIES, IS THE UNDERSTANDABLE BASIS UPON WHICH PEOPLE MAY BE GUIDED TO EFFECTIVE ACTION. “ ” Baker et al., 2002 The Scientific and Societal Value of Paleoflood Research
  49. 49. River diversion Main channel WINNIPEG POPULATION: 680,000 Source: Dr. Greg Brooks, Geological Survey of Canada
  50. 50. $1.8BFARG0-MOORHEAD DIVERSION
  51. 51. “JOSEPH-WILD” BEHAVIOR
  52. 52. THE CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST
  53. 53. 2THE CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST: SIGNAL OR QUIRK?
  54. 54. LOW- HIGH- FREQUENCY BEHAVIOR
  55. 55. Source: Flickrけんたま/KENTAMA
  56. 56. 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000 56 56.5 57 57.5 58 58.5 59 Source: NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies Mean annual temperature (°F) GLOBAL LAND-OCEAN TEMPERATURE INDEX ‘RED’
  57. 57. 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000 2020 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 ‘WHITE’ total annual precipitation (mm) ANNUAL PRECIPITATION IN DES MOINES, IOWA Source: Global Historical Climate Network
  58. 58. Central Pacific Coast
  59. 59. 1920 1960 2000 −400 0 400 Regional winter precipitation anomalies (mm) Ault and St. George, Journal of Climate, 2010 CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST
  60. 60. 1920 1960 2000 −400 0 400 Regional winter precipitation anomalies (mm) Ault and St. George, Journal of Climate, 2010 CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST
  61. 61. Source: California Department of Water Resources Florsheim, JL, De inger, MD, 2007. Climate and floods still govern California levee breaks. Geophysical Research Le ers.
  62. 62. Ault and St. George, Journal of Climate, 2010 STRONG DECADAL VARIABILITY SYNCHRONIZES RAINFALL, STREAMFLOW, AND HAZARDS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
  63. 63. PREDICTIVE CAPACITY
  64. 64. THE HISTORY OF METEOROLOGY IS LITTERED WITH THE WHITENED BONES OF CLAIMS TO HAVE DEMONSTRATED THE EXISTENCE OF RELIABLE CYCLES IN THE WEATHER. “ ” William James Burroughs Weather Cycles: Real or Imaginary?
  65. 65. FORCED? STOCHASTIC?
  66. 66. CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
  67. 67. Dr. David Stahle University of Arkansas
  68. 68. Source: Dr. Dan Griffin, University of Minnesota QUERCUS DOUGLASII
  69. 69. 1700 1750 1800 1850 1900 1950 2000 Tree growth (anomalies) −0.4 0.4 0 1650 ring-width records mean of set Source: St. George and Ault, Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, 2011 TREE RINGS INDICATE THE 20TH CENTURY WAS UNUSUALLY DECADAL
  70. 70. Source: NOAA ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS
  71. 71. Xiaolu Li Cornell University
  72. 72. Li et al., unpublished WHERE IS DEC-CEN VARIABILITY VIGOROUS? AD 1850 - 2005
  73. 73. Li et al., unpublished WHERE IS DEC-CEN VARIABILITY VIGOROUS? AD 1850 - 2005
  74. 74. FORCED? STOCHASTIC?
  75. 75. PREDICTIVE CAPACITY
  76. 76. 3THE DECADAL CLIMATE CONUNDRUM
  77. 77. DECADAL CLIMATE VARIABILITY
  78. 78. … THE USE OF HIGH-RESOLUTION PROXY DATA SHOULD BE EXPANDED BECAUSE THE SHORT OBSERVATIONAL RECORD AND MODEL UNCERTAINTY ARE UNABLE TO SIMULATE [DECADAL CLIMATE VARIABILITY]… “ ” Mehta et al., 2011 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
  79. 79. PACIFIC DECADAL OSCILLATION
  80. 80. 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000 2020 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 Source: Dr. Nate Mantua, University of Washington THE PACIFIC DECADAL OSCILLATION (PDO) IS A LONG-LIVED EL NIÑO-LIKE PATTERN OF PACIFIC CLIMATE VARIABILITY.
  81. 81. D’ARRIGO AND WILSON, 2006 “ON THE ASIAN EXPRESSION OF THE PDO” 81 CITATIONS D’ARRIGO ET AL, 2001 “TREE-RING ESTIMATES OF PACIFIC DECADAL CLIMATE VARIABILITY” 226 CITATIONS BIONDI ET AL., 2001 “NORTH PACIFIC DECADAL CLIMATE VARIABILITY SINCE 1661 ” 440 CITATIONS GEDALOF AND SMITH, 2001 “INTERDECADAL CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND REGIME-SCALE SHIFTS IN PACIFIC NORTH AMERICA” 227 CITATIONS MCDONALD AND CASE, 2005 “VARIATIONS IN THE PACIFIC DECADAL OSCILLATION OF THE PAST MILLENNIUM” 253 CITATIONS
  82. 82. Dr. Kurt Kipfmueller University of Minnesota
  83. 83. ANY CONCLUSION THAT EXTENSIVE WILDFIRES ARE MORE OR LESS COMMON WHEN THE PDO IS IN ONE PHASE OR THE OTHER DEPENDS ENTIRELY ON THE CHOICE OF PDO RECONSTRUCTION. “ ” Kipfmueller et al., 2012 Geophysical Research Le ers
  84. 84. ADVANTAGE DISADVANTAGE Short relative to decadal timescales Grounded in reality Too sensitive to solar and volcanic forcing? Simulations are much longer than the timescale of interest Long records grounded in reality Proxy systems may distort or exaggerate decadal signals THE DECADAL CLIMATE CONUNDRUM
  85. 85. TWO CASES ILLUSTRATING THE DECADAL CLIMATE
  86. 86. INSTRUMENTAL AND PALEOCLIMATE DATA INDICATE THAT NATURAL HYDROCLIMATE FLUCTUATIONS TEND TO BE MORE ENERGETIC AT LOW (MULTIDECADAL TO MULTICENTURY) THAN AT HIGH (INTERANNUAL) FREQUENCIES. STATE-OF-THE-ART GLOBAL CLIMATE MODELS DO NOT CAPTURE THIS CHARACTERISTIC OF HYDROCLIMATE VARIABILITY, SUGGESTING THAT THE MODELS UNDERESTIMATE THE RISK OF FUTURE PERSISTENT DROUGHTS. “ ” Ault et al, 2014 Journal of Climate
  87. 87. Source: Franke et al., Nature Climate Change, 2013
  88. 88. “JOSEPH-WILD” BEHAVIOR
  89. 89. USING A GAUSS-MARKOV PROCESS IMPLIES FITTING HIGH FREQUENCY EFFECTS FIRST AND WORRYING ABOUT LOW FREQUENCY EFFECTS LATER. “ ” Mandelbrot and Wallis, 1968 Water Resources Research
  90. 90. OUR STUDY GIVES EVIDENCE THAT ATTENTION TO THE SPECTRAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ORIGINAL PROXY SERIES IS NEEDED. “ ” Franke et al., 2013 Nature Climate Change
  91. 91. 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900 2000 −1 0 1 10 to 50 yr 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900 2000 −2 0 2 >10 yr IS TREE GROWTH IN NEW MEXICO
 LESS SPATIALLY COHERENT AT LONG TIMESCALES?
  92. 92. Pinus Picea Quercus Pseudotsuga Larix Nothofagus Austrocedris Phyllocladus Agathis Source: St. George, PAGES News, 2014 THERE ARE MORE THAN 3,200 PUBLICLY-AVAILABLE TREE-RING RECORDS (AND MANY MORE HELD BY INDIVIDUAL INVESTIGATORS).
  93. 93. FALSE DISCOVERY RATE
  94. 94. Source: St. George, Quaternary Science Reviews, 2014 LESS THAN ONE IN SEVEN TREE-RING WIDTH RECORDS IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE ARE SIGNIFICANTLY CORRELATED WITH THE PDO.
  95. 95. Source: St. George, Quaternary Science Reviews, 2014 LESS THAN ONE IN SEVEN TREE-RING WIDTH RECORDS IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE ARE SIGNIFICANTLY CORRELATED WITH THE PDO.
  96. 96. BUT SOMEHOW, OVERALL, HISTORY IS POTENT ENOUGH TO DELIVER, ON TIME, IN THE MEDIUM OR LONG RUN MOST OF THE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS, AND TO EVENTUALLY BURY THE BAD GUY. “ ” Nassim Taleb Fooled By Randomness
  97. 97. Dr. Hal Fri s University of Arizona
  98. 98. THEREFORE, THE TREE MAY BE THOUGHT OF AS A “WINDOW” OR FILTER WHICH, BY MEANS OF THE PHYSIOLOGICAL PROCESS, PASSES AND CONVERTS A CERTAIN CLIMATIC OR ENVIRONMENTAL INPUT INTO A CERTAIN RING-WIDTH OUTPUT. “ ” Fri s, 1971 Quaternary Research

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