The University of Arizona

AZ Climate Division 3 | CLIMAS

AZ Climate Division 3

Single-Year Reconstruction and Extremes

The graph below shows the cool season (November-April) precipitation reconstruction for Arizona climate division 3. Values are expressed as a percentage of 1000-1988 average precipitation. The adjusted 2002 and 1956 averages, the two driest years during the dry periods of the 1950s and 2000s, are plotted in orange and red, respectively, for comparison. As the reconstruction shows, not many years in the past thousand years were drier than 2002.

R2 = 48%

View calibration/verification data

Reconstructed Average (1000-1988) = 183.1 mm

Instrumental Average (1896-2010) = 197.6 mm


Driest Year Wettest Year
Year Precipitation (mm) Percent Average Year Precipitaton (mm) Percent Average
1773 0.0 0.0 1840 351.8 198.4
1670 0.5 0.3 1197 340.2 191.9
1735 9.3 5.2 1064 332.7 187.6
1085 16.1 9.1 1839 327.7 184.8
1151 26.7 15.1 1052 321.3 181.2

Multi-Year Reconstructions and Extremes

The graph below shows the five-year average precipitation reconstruction for Arizona climate division 3; values are expressed as a percentage of 1000-1988 average precipitation. The adjusted 1955-1959 and 1999-2003 averages for this climate division are provided for comparison (orange and red lines, respectively). These periods correspond to the driest five-year spans in the two most severe droughts in the instrumental record. Over the entire reconstructed record, several extended dry periods stand out, particularly the late 1000s-early 1100s, late 1200s, early 1300s, late 1500s, late-1700s, and the mid-1900s.


  R2 = 48%
View calibration/verification data

5-Year Reconstructed Average (1000-1988) = 183.0 mm/yr; 915.0 mm/5-yr

5-Year Instrumental Average (1896-2010) = 198.3 mm/yr; 991.5 mm/5-yr

Driest Five-year Period Wettest Five-year Period
Years Precipitation (mm) Percent Average Years Precipitation (mm) Percent Average
1666-1670 322.7 35.3 1837-1841 1558.6 170.4
1589-1593 348.3 38.1 1200-1204 1451.8 158.7
1735-1739 426.9 46.7 1115-1119 1417.8 155.0
1661-1665 446.2 48.8 1209-1213 1405.6 153.7
1772-1776 465.6 50.9 1061-1065 1369.0 149.7


Instrumental Record and Extremes

Precipitation was below average for climate division 3 (23.9%) in 2002, making it one of the driest years in the instrumental record. Based on five-year precipitation averages, 2001-2005 was one of the driest spells on record for this climate division.

Driest One-Year Period Wettest One-Year Period
    Year      Precipitation (mm) Percent Average      Year      Precipitation (mm) Percent Average
1904 23.4 11.8 1905 530.4 268.4
2002 47.2 23.9 1993 498.6 252.3
1972 47.8 24.2 2005 433.6 219.4
2006 47.8 24.2 1941 431.5 218.4
1996 62.7 31.8 1979 428.2 216.7
Driest Five-Year Period Wettest Five-Year Period
Year Precipitation (mm) Percent Average Year Precipitation (mm) Percent Average
1902-1906 581.9 58.7 1982-1985 1664.0 167.8
1900-1904 589.8 59.5 1980-1984 1644.7 165.9
2001-2005 617.0 62.2 1993-1997 1589.0 160.3
1901-1905 655.3 66.1 1997-1911 1586.0 160.0
1957-1961 669.3 67.5 1978-1982 1564.6 157.8

Calibration and Verification Data

The graph below shows a comparison between instrumental and reconstructed November-April precipitation for Arizona climate division 3. The graph shows excellent agreement between the tree-ring and instrumental records over most of the 20th century. The R2, in this case 48%, indicates the amount of variation in the instrumental precipitation record captured by tree rings. Higher R2 values indicate more reliable reconstructions.

How the Data Were Calculated

The 1000-year reconstruction of cool-season precipitation is presented as the combined neural network and linear regression reconstructions. The two separate reconstructions were combined in the following manner. If both the linear regression and neural network reconstructions were below the calibration in any given year, then the linear regression value was used. In all other instances, a simple average of the two reconstructions was used. The rationale for this approach is based on detailed analyses and the simple observation that the linear regression does a better job at capturing the drought years. The reconstructions for each division were “smoothed” using a centered 5-year running average.

These reconstructions were developed using millimeters as the measurement unit. However, it is sometimes easier to think of precipitation in terms of the percentage of the long term average. To convert these data to percentage of average each reconstructed value was simply divided by the average of the reconstruction. The same procedure was used to convert instrumental precipitation.

The threshold line for the most recent drought period was calculated by first determining the percentage of average precipitation received during the year or averaged over the last five years, then dividing by the long term averages. In the case of the five-year smoothed reconstructions the average is based on five year averages over the 1896-2010 period. Comparison of the most recent drought in the 2000s to the long term average is problematic, however, because these reconstructions only extend through 1988. In addition, tree-ring data do not match the variance contained within the instrumental data so an adjustment is needed to be made in order to make more reasonable comparisons. The 2002 value (or the 5 year average) was first adjusted relative to the 1896-1988 reference period by calculating the percentage of average over the entire period (1896-2010), then determining the value relative to only the common overlap period (1896-1988). For example, Arizona Climate Division 3 recorded 47.2 mm of precipitation in 2002, which is 23.9% of the 1896-2010 average (197.7 mm). To put this into the context of the tree-ring reconstruction in terms of millimeters of precipitation, this value (23.9% or 0.239) was multiplied by the reconstructed average over the period 1896-1988 (204.5 mm), which yields an adjusted value of 48.9 mm.

A note about dates: while a single year or range of dates is given in the data for simplicity, cool-season precipitation estimates are for November-April. For example, data listed for 2002 would actually be from November 2001 to April 2002.