A severe drought during the last millennium in East Java, Indonesia

Jessica R. Rodysill, James M. Russell, Shelley D. Crausbay, Satria Bijaksana, Mathias Vuille, R. Lawrence Edwards, Hai Cheng

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14 Scopus citations


The Little Ice Age (LIA) is characterized by widespread northern hemisphere cooling during a period of reduced radiative forcing. Sediment records from three crater lakes indicate that the most severe drought of the last 1200 years struck East Java at the end of the LIA. We use 14C and U-series dating applied to carbonate geochemical records from Lakes Lading, Logung, and Lamongan to demonstrate this drought occurred at 1790 Common Era (CE)±20 years. Drought occurred during a period of strong El Niño events and Asian monsoon failures in the late 1790s, yet our records indicate that drought conditions persisted well beyond this decade and reached peak intensity in East Java ca1810 CE±30 years. The continuation of severe drought into the 1800s may have resulted from the large volcanic eruptions that occurred in 1809, 1815 and 1835 CE, which likely caused brief, abrupt decreases in Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP) sea surface temperatures (SSTs), reducing local convection in East Java. Alternatively, broad changes in atmospheric circulation, such as a slowing of the Pacific Walker Circulation in response to decreased solar radiation during the LIA, could have produced several decades of drought in East Java. However, there is a lack of clear supporting evidence for such a change based upon paleohydrological records from the opposite ends of both the Indian and Pacific ocean zonal circulation systems. Based on the available evidence, we suggest severe multidecadal drought in East Java throughout the turn of the 19th century was driven by locally reduced convection resulting from a combination of heightened El Niño activity and volcanic eruptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-111
Number of pages10
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Nov 15 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Government of Indonesia and Indonesian Ministry of Research and Technology (RISTEK) for permission and assistance in conducting field research. We thank Ed Cushing for providing 14 C ages from Lake Lading. We also thank Dave Murray, Joe Orchardo, and Candice Bousquet for laboratory assistance, Jessica Tierney, Kevin Anchukaitis, and Bronwen Konecky for improving the quality of this project, and the Limnological Research Center. This research was supported by a NOAA-CCDD grant to J. Russell and M. Vuille.


  • Drought
  • El Niño-Southern Oscillation
  • Indo-Pacific Warm Pool
  • Indonesia
  • Little Ice Age
  • Volcanic forcing


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