Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
Research article
10 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 10 Jan 2012

Climate variability in Andalusia (southern Spain) during the period 1701–1850 based on documentary sources: evaluation and comparison with climate model simulations

F. S. Rodrigo, J. J. Gómez-Navarro, and J. P. Montávez Gómez

Abstract. In this work, a reconstruction of climatic conditions in Andalusia (southern Iberian Peninsula) during the period 1701–1850, as well as an evaluation of its associated uncertainties, is presented. This period is interesting because it is characterized by a minimum in solar irradiance (Dalton Minimum, around 1800), as well as intense volcanic activity (for instance, the eruption of Tambora in 1815), at a time when any increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations was of minor importance. The reconstruction is based on the analysis of a wide variety of documentary data. The reconstruction methodology is based on counting the number of extreme events in the past, and inferring mean value and standard deviation using the assumption of normal distribution for the seasonal means of climate variables. This reconstruction methodology is tested within the pseudoreality of a high-resolution paleoclimate simulation performed with the regional climate model MM5 coupled to the global model ECHO-G. The results show that the reconstructions are influenced by the reference period chosen and the threshold values used to define extreme values. This creates uncertainties which are assessed within the context of climate simulation. An ensemble of reconstructions was obtained using two different reference periods (1885–1915 and 1960–1990) and two pairs of percentiles as threshold values (10–90 and 25–75). The results correspond to winter temperature, and winter, spring and autumn rainfall, and they are compared with simulations of the climate model for the considered period. The mean value of winter temperature for the period 1781–1850 was 10.6 ± 0.1 °C (11.0 °C for the reference period 1960–1990). The mean value of winter rainfall for the period 1701–1850 was 267 ± 18 mm (224 mm for 1960–1990). The mean values of spring and autumn rainfall were 164 ± 11 and 194 ± 16 mm (129 and 162 mm for 1960–1990, respectively). Comparison of the distribution functions corresponding to 1790–1820 and 1960–1990 indicates that during the Dalton Minimum the frequency of dry and warm (wet and cold) winters was lower (higher) than during the reference period: temperatures were up to 0.5 °C lower than the 1960–1990 value, and rainfall was 4% higher.