Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-171
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-171

  17 Dec 2021

17 Dec 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Do Southern Hemisphere tree rings record past volcanic events?

Philippa Ann Higgins1,2, Jonathan Gray Palmer2,3, Chris S. M. Turney2,3, Martin Sogaard Andersen4, and Fiona Johnson1 Philippa Ann Higgins et al.
  • 1Water Research Centre, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia
  • 2ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia
  • 3Earth and Sustainability Science Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia
  • 4Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia

Abstract. Much of our knowledge about the impacts of volcanic events on climate comes from proxy records. However, little is known about the impact of volcanoes on trees from the Southern Hemisphere. We investigated whether volcanic signals could be identified in ring widths from eight New Zealand dendrochronological species, using superposed epoch analysis. We found that most species are good recorders of volcanic dimming and that the magnitude and persistence of the post-event response can be broadly linked to plant life history traits. Across species, site-based factors, particularly altitude and exposure to prevailing conditions, are more important determinants of the strength of the volcanic response than the species. We then investigated whether proxy selection impacts the magnitude of post-volcanic cooling in tree-ring based temperature reconstructions by developing two new multispecies reconstructions of New Zealand summer (December–February) temperature. Both reconstructions showed temperature anomalies remarkably consistent with studies based on instrumental temperature, and with the ensemble mean response of climate models, demonstrating that New Zealand ring widths are reliable indicators of regional volcanic climate response. However, we also found that volcanic response is complex, with positive, negative, and neutral responses identified – sometimes within the same species group. Species-wide composites thus tend to underestimate the volcanic response. The has important implications for the development of future tree ring and multiproxy temperature reconstructions from the Southern Hemisphere.

Philippa Ann Higgins et al.

Status: open (until 11 Feb 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-171', Kathryn Allen, 03 Jan 2022 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-171', Anonymous Referee #1, 11 Jan 2022 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on cp-2021-171', Anonymous Referee #2, 19 Jan 2022 reply

Philippa Ann Higgins et al.

Philippa Ann Higgins et al.

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Short summary
Most New Zealand tree species we studied showed signs of large volcanic eruptions. For some species, cold temperatures caused a decline in growth, but for others, less water stress caused more growth. The impact depends on the species - and how well it can tolerate stress, but more importantly on the altitude and exposure of the site. This has implications for temperature reconstructions based on tree rings, because the methods used can impact the magnitude of observed volcanic cooling.