David Meko, Charles W. Stockton, W. R. Boggess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: Frequent and persistent droughts exacerbate the problems caused by the inherent scarcity of water in the semiarid to arid parts of the southwestern United States. The occurrence of drought is driven by climatic variability, which for years before about the beginning of the 20th century in the Southwest must be inferred from proxy records. As part of a multidisciplinary study of the potential hydrologic impact of severe sustained drought on the Colorado River, the physical basis and limitations of tree rings as indicators of severe sustained drought are reviewed, and tree‐ring data are analyzed to delineate a “worst‐case” drought scenario for the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB). Runs analysis of a 121‐site tree‐ring network, 1600–1962, identifies a four‐year drought in the 1660s as the longest‐duration large‐scale drought in the Southwest in the recent tree‐ring record. Longer tree‐ring records suggest a much longer and more severe drought in 1579–1598. The regression estimate of the mean annual Colorado River flow for this period is 10.95 million acre‐feet, or 81 percent of the long‐term mean. The estimated flows for the 1500s should be used with caution in impact studies because sample size is small and some reconstructed values are extrapolations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)789-801
Number of pages13
JournalJAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1995


  • Colorado River
  • dendrohydrology
  • drought planning
  • meteorology/climatology
  • time series analysis
  • tree rings
  • water resources planning
  • water supply

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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