Water resources in western North America depend on winter precipitation, yet our knowledge of its sensitivity to climate change remains limited. Similarly, understanding the potential for future loss of winter snow pack requires a longer perspective on natural climate variability. Here we use stable isotopes from a speleothem in southwestern Oregon to reconstruct winter climate change for much of the past 13,000 years. We find that on millennial time scales there were abrupt transitions between warm-dry and cold-wet regimes. Temperature and precipitation changes on multi-decadal to century timescales are consistent with ocean-atmosphere interactions that arise from mechanisms similar to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Extreme cold-wet and warm-dry events that punctuated the Holocene appear to be sensitive to solar forcing, possibly through the influence of the equatorial Pacific on the winter storm tracks reaching the US Pacific Northwest region.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank John Roth, Elizabeth Hale and Deana DeWire who facilitated our research at OCNM, and Xianfeng Wang who helped with U-Th dating. This research was funded by the US NSF Paleoclimate Program. V.E. acknowledges support from a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship.