Recent European drought extremes beyond Common Era background variability


Europe’s recent summer droughts have had devastating ecological and economic consequences, but the severity and cause of these extremes remain unclear. Here we present 27,080 annually resolved and absolutely dated measurements of tree-ring stable carbon and oxygen (δ13C and δ18O) isotopes from 21 living and 126 relict oaks (Quercus spp.) used to reconstruct central European summer hydroclimate from 75 bce to 2018 ce. We find that the combined inverse δ13C and δ18O values correlate with the June–August Palmer Drought Severity Index from 1901–2018 at 0.73 (P < 0.001). Pluvials around 200, 720 and 1100 ce, and droughts around 40, 590, 950 and 1510 ce and in the twenty-first century, are superimposed on a multi-millennial drying trend. Our reconstruction demonstrates that the sequence of recent European summer droughts since 2015 ce is unprecedented in the past 2,110 years. This hydroclimatic anomaly is probably caused by anthropogenic warming and associated changes in the position of the summer jet stream.
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