Persistent drying in the tropics linked to natural forcing

Amos Winter, Davide Zanchettin, Thomas Miller, Yochanan Kushnir, David Black, Gerrit Lohmann, Allison Burnett, Gerald H. Haug, Juan Estrella-Martinez, Sebastian F.M. Breitenbach, Luc Beaufort, Angelo Rubino, Hai Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Approximately half of the world's population lives in the tropics, and future changes in the hydrological cycle will impact not just the freshwater supplies but also energy production in areas dependent upon hydroelectric power. It is vital that we understand the mechanisms/processes that affect tropical precipitation and the eventual surface hydrological response to better assess projected future regional precipitation trends and variability. Paleo-climate proxies are well suited for this purpose as they provide long time series that pre-date and complement the present, often short instrumental observations. Here we present paleo-precipitation data from a speleothem located in Mesoamerica that reveal large multi-decadal declines in regional precipitation, whose onset coincides with clusters of large volcanic eruptions during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This reconstruction provides new independent evidence of long-lasting volcanic effects on climate and elucidates key aspects of the causal chain of physical processes determining the tropical climate response to global radiative forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7627
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Jul 14 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A.W. thanks the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology both for hosting his sabbatical and for the analysis of the stable isotopes. A.W. also thanks Cluster of Excellence CliSAP at the University of Hamburg for sponsoring collaboration. Collection of GU-Xi-1 by T.M. was supported through a sabbatical granted by the University of Puerto Rico (Mayagüez) and the National Geographic Society Grant no. 3089-85 to T.M. partially supported survey of the cave and location of the stalagmite. The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation ATM-1003502. Y.K. was also supported by grant NA10OAR4310137 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration— Climate Program Office. S.F.M.B. acknowledges financial support from the Schweizer National Fond Project CRS122 132646/1. D.B. was supported by National Science Foundation Grant ATM-1003219. G.L. acknowledges support from Helmholtz through PACES and REKLIM. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Program Working Group on Coupled Modeling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. Paul Sammarco (LUMCON) is thanked for some advice regarding statistical and data interpretation. This paper is a Lamont Doherty Contribution number 7901. LB was supported by the French National Research Agency under EL PASO grant 10-Blan-608-01.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


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