Iberian hydroclimate variability and the Azores High during the last 1200 years: evidence from proxy records and climate model simulations

TitleIberian hydroclimate variability and the Azores High during the last 1200 years: evidence from proxy records and climate model simulations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsThatcher, DL, Wanamaker, AD, Denniston, RF, Ummenhofer, CC, Asmerom, Y, Polyak, VJ, Cresswell-Clay, N, Hasiuk, F, Haws, J, Gillikin, DP
JournalClimate Dynamics
Date Published08/2022
KeywordsAzores High, Hydroclimate, last millennium, Last Millennium Ensemble, Paleoclimate, Stalagmite

The state of the atmospheric circulation and the associated hydroclimate in the North Atlantic during the last millennium remain the subject of considerable debate in both proxy- and model-based studies. Of particular interest in the Iberian region is the Azores High (AH) system, the southern node of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), an atmospheric dipole closely tied to regional hydroclimate. Hydroclimate-sensitive proxy reconstructions from this region offer some insights into atmospheric dynamics, but large spatiotemporal gaps in these data inhibit a robust evaluation of hydroclimate variability. In this study, we present a continuous, sub-decadally-resolved composite stalagmite carbon isotopic record from three partially overlapping stalagmites from Buraca Gloriosa (BG) cave, western Portugal, situated within the center of the AH, that preserves evidence of regional hydroclimate variability from approximately 800 CE to the present. Chronologies are derived from U/Th dating and annual laminae. Stalagmite carbon isotopic values primarily reflect the amount of effective moisture and reveal generally dry conditions during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA; 850–1250 CE) and Modern Climate/Industrial Era (1850 CE-present), and wetter conditions during the Little Ice Age (LIA; 1400–1850 CE). Multidecadal to centennial variability in the BG record and state-of-the-art last millennium climate model simulations show considerable coherence with precipitation-sensitive records from Spain and Morocco that, like BG, are strongly influenced by the intensity, size, and location of the AH. Model-proxy synthesis suggests that western Portugal was persistently dry during much of the MCA consistent with other NAO reconstructions; however, even considering age uncertainties, the apparent timing in the transition from a relatively dry MCA to a wetter LIA is spatially variable and confirms the non-stationary behavior of the AH system indicated by model output.