Reports

Periodicity in Tree Rings from the Corn Belt

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Science  26 Jul 1985:
Vol. 229, Issue 4711, pp. 381-384
DOI: 10.1126/science.229.4711.381

Abstract

Previous tree-ring studies indicated that the total area affected by drought in the western United States has rhythmically expanded and contracted over the past 300 years, with a period near the 18.6-year lunar nodal and 22-year double-sunspot cycles. Recently collected tree-ring data from the U.S. Corn Belt for the years 1680 to 1980 were examined for evidence of either of these cycles on a regional scale. Spectral analysis indicated no periodicity in the eastern part of the Corn Belt, but a significant 18.33-year period in the western part. The period length changed from 17.60 to 20.95 years between the first 150 years and the last 151. High-resolution frequency analysis showed that the structure of the 18.33-year spectral peak was complex, with contributions from several frequencies near both the lunar nodal and double-sunspot periods. A t-test of difference of means in reconstructed annual precipitation weakly corroborated a previous finding of an association between drought area and the phase of the double-sunspot cycle. Both the high-resolution frequency analysis and the t-test results indicate that the periodic component of drought near 20 years is too weak and irregular to be of use in drought forecasting for the Corn Belt.