Impact of high flows of an Arctic river on ring widths of floodplain trees

David M. Meko, Irina P. Panyushkina, Leonid I. Agafonov, Julie A. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The tree-ring signal for flooding along the Ob River, a large Arctic River in western Siberia, is investigated using a combination of floodplain tree-ring sites from riparian and non-riparian settings. A conceptual model is presented contrasting tree-growth responses of riparian and non-riparian trees to unusually severe flooding. A set of five riparian (Salix and Populus) tree-ring chronologies is developed and used in combination with existing floodplain non-riparian Larix and Pinus chronologies in a binary classification tree (CT) model to classify high-flood years, defined as a Salekhard water-level gage reading in the seasonal window from May 1 to August 31 of above 470 cm for 82 or more consecutive days. Correlation and regression identifies a nonlinear relationship of riparian ring widths to discharge and flooding: higher annual discharge generally leads to higher growth, but the relationship reverses in extreme-flood years. Micrographs highlight the suppression of width and occasional distortion of cell anatomy in selected trees. CT modeling guided by cross-validation yields a CT model with a primary split on the riparian ring width and secondary split on the non-riparian ring width. The model successfully identifies four of the eight most severe high-flow years, 1934–2014. The model further identifies two years (1885 and 1914) before the start of the gaged record in 1934 as high-flow years. No appreciable difference is found in frequency of high-flow years before and after 1956, when the first major reservoirs began filling upstream of the Lower Ob. The CT modeling approach is proposed as a novel approach to dealing with nonlinearity in reconstructing flood history of Arctic rivers from tree rings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)789-798
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Ob River
  • classification tree
  • floods
  • riparian
  • tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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