Drought reconstructions for the continental United States

Edward R. Cook, David M. Meko, David W. Stahle, Malcolm K. Cleaveland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

931 Scopus citations


The development of a 2°lat X 3°long grid of summer drought reconstructions for the continental United States estimated from a dense network of annual tree-ring chronologies is described. The drought metric used is the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). The number of grid points is 154 and the reconstructions cover the common period 1700-1978. In producing this grid, an automated gridpoint regression method called 'point-by-point regression' was developed and tested. In so doing, a near-optimal global solution was found for its implementation. The reconstructions have been thoroughly tested for validity using PDSI data not used in regression modeling. In general, most of the gridpoint estimates of drought pass the verification tests used. In addition, the spatial features of drought in the United States have been faithfully recorded in the reconstructions even though the method of reconstruction is not explicitly spatial in its design. The drought reconstructions show that the 1930s 'Dust Bowl' drought was the most severe such event to strike the United States since 1700. Other more local droughts are also revealed in the regional patterns of drought obtained by rotated principal component analysis. These reconstructions are located on a NOAA Web site at the World Data Center-A in Boulder, Colorado, and can be freely downloaded from there.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1145-1163
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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