Skip to main content

Repeated century-scale droughts over the past 13,000 yr near the Hudson River watershed, USA

  • Paige E. Newby (a1), Bryan N. Shuman (a2), Jeffrey P. Donnelly (a3) and Dana MacDonald (a1)

Long-term sediment and ground-penetrating radar data from Davis Pond, a small lake near the Hudson River valley, reveal past droughts in a historically humid region that presently supplies water to millions of people in and around New York City. A minimum of eleven sandy paleoshoreline deposits in the lake date from 13.4 to 0.6 cal ka BP. The deposits span 1500 to 200 yr between bracketing radiocarbon ages, and intrude into lacustrine silts up to 9.0 m below the modern lake surface in a transect of six sediment cores. Three low stands, ca. 13.4–10.9, 9.2 and 8.2 cal ka BP indicate low regional moisture balance when low temperatures affected the North Atlantic region. Consistent with insolation trends, water levels rose from ca. 8.0 cal ka BP to present, but five low stands interrupted the rise and are likely associated with ocean–atmosphere interactions. Similar to evidence from other studies, the data from Davis Pond indicate repeated multi-century periods of prolonged or frequent droughts super-imposed on long-term regional trends toward high water levels. The patterns indicate that water supplies in this heavily populated region have continuously varied at multiple time scales and confirm that humid regions such as the northeastern United States are more prone to severe drought than historically expected.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Fax: + 1 401 863 3058.
E-mail address: (P.E. Newby).
Hide All
Alley R.B., Marotzke J., Nordhaus W.D., Overpeck J.T., Peteet D.M., Pielke R.A. Jr., Pierrehumbert R.T., Rhines P.B., Stocker T.F., Talley L.D., and Wallace J.M. Abrupt climate change. Science 299, (2003). 20052010.
Alley R.B., Mayewski P.A., Sowers T., Stuiver M., Taylor K.C., and Clark P.U. Holocene climatic instability: a prominent, widespread event 8200 yr ago. Geology 25, (1997). 483486.
Almquist H., Dieffenbacher-Krall A.C., Flanagan-Brown R., and Sanger D. The Holocene record of lake levels of Mansell Pond, central Maine, USA. The Holocene 11, (2001). 189201.
Andrews J.F. The weather and circulation of July 1965. Monthly Weather Review 93, 10 (1965). 647654.
Bond G., Kromer B., Beer J., Muscheler R., Evans M.N., Showers W., Hoffmann S., Lotti-Bond R., Hadjas I., and Bonani G. Persistent Solar Influence on North Atlantic Climate During the Holocene. Science 294, (2001). 21302136.
Cook E.R., Meko D.M., Stahle D.W., and Cleaveland M.K. Drought reconstructions for the continental United States. Journal of Climate 12, (1999). 11451162.
Dale T.N. The Lime Belt of Massachusetts and Parts of Eastern New York and Western Connecticut. (1923). United States Geological Survey, Bulletin 744, Washington DC. 71 pp.
Dean W.E. Determination of carbonate and organic matter in calcareous sediments and sedimentary rocks by loss on ignition: comparison with other methods. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 44, (1974). 242248.
Degaetano A.T. A temporal comparison of drought impacts and responses in the New York City Metropolitan Area. Climatic Change 42, (1999). 539560.
Dieffenbacher-Krall A.C., and Nurse A.M. Late-Glacial and Holocene record of lake levels of Mathews Pond and Whitehead Lake, Northern Maine, USA. Journal of Paleolimnology 34, (2005). 283309.
Diffenbaugh N.S., Ashfaq M., Shuman B., Williams J.W., and Bartlein P.J. Summer aridity in the United States: response to mid-Holocene changes in insolation and sea surface temperature. Geophysical Research Letters 33, (2006). L22712
Digerfeldt G. Studies on Past Lake-Level Fluctuations. Berglund B.E. Handbook of Holocene palaeoecology and palaeohydrology. (1986). John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, United Kingdom. 127142.
Faegri K., and Iversen J. Textbook of Pollen Analysis. 4th edn (1989). John Wiley and Sons, Chichester. 328 pp
Fleitmann D., Mudelsee M., Burns S.J., Bradley R.S., Kramers J., and Matter A. Evidence for a widespread climatic anomaly at around 9.2 ka before present. Paleoceanography 23, (2008). PA1102PA.
Griffith G.E., Omernik J.M., Pierson S.M., and Kiilsgaard C.W. The Massachusetts Ecological Regions Project. (1994). United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington D. C. Publication No. 17587-74-6/94-DEP
Hayhoe K., Wake C., Huntington T., Luo L., Schwartz M., Sheffield J., Wood E., Anderson B., Bradbury J., DeGaetano A., Troy T., and Wolfe D. Past and future changes in climate and hydrological indicators in the US Northeast. Climate Dynamics 28, (2007). 381407.
Hill T.D., and Polsky C. Suburbanization and drought: a mixed methods vulnerability assessment in rainy Massachusetts. Environmental Hazards 7, (2007). 291301.
Holmes G.W., and Newman W. S. (1971). Surficial geologic map of the Ashley Falls quadrangle, Massachusetts-Connecticut. Geologic Quadrange Map GQ-936, USGS, Denver, Colorado.
Kinnison H.B. The 1929–1930 drought in New England. Journal of New England Water Works Association 45, (1931). 145163.
Kirby M., Patterson W., Mullins H., and Burnett A. Post-younger dryas climate interval linked to circumpolar vortex variability: isotopic evidence from Fayetteville Green Lake, New York. Climate Dynamics 19, (2002). 321330.
Leathers D.J., Grundstein A.J., and Ellis A.W. Growing season moisture deficits across the northeastern United States. Climate Dynamics 14, (2000). 4355.
Li Y.-X., Yu Z., Kodama K.P., and Moeller R. A 14,000-year environmental change history revealed by mineral magnetic data from White Lake, New Jersey, USA. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 246, (2006). 2740.
Li Y.-X., Yu Z., and Kodama K.P. Sensitive moisture response to Holocene millennial-scale climate variations in the Mid-Atlantic region, USA. The Holocene 17, (2007). 38.
Lyon B., Christie-Blick N., and Gluzberg Y. Water shortages, development, and drought in Rockland County, New York. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JA) 41, 6 (2005). 14571469.
Maenza-Gmelch T.E. Holocene vegetation, climate, and fire history of the Hudson Highlands, southeastern New York, USA. The Holocene 7, (1997). 2537.
Namias J. Nature and possible causes of the northeastern United States drought during 1962–65. Monthly Weather Review 94, (1966). 543554.
Newby P.C., Killoran P., Waldorf M., Shuman B.N., Webb T. III, and Webb R.S. 14, 000 years of sediment, vegetation, and water level changes at the Makepeace Cedar Swamp, southeastern Massachusetts. Quaternary Research 53, (2000). 352368.
Newby P.E., Donnelly J.P., Shuman B.N., and MacDonald D. Evidence of centennial-scale drought from southeastern Massachusetts during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition. Quaternary Science Reviews 28, (2009). 16751692.
Norvitch R.F., and Lamb M.E.S. Records of selected well, springs, test holes, materials tests, and chemical analyses of water in Housatonic River basin, United States Geological Survey Massachusetts Basic-Data Report 9. (1966). Ground-Water Series, Washington DC. 40 pp
Oswald W.W., Faison E.K., Foster D.R., Doughty E.D., Hall B.R., and Hansen B.C.S. Post-glacial changes in spatial patterns of vegetation across southern New England. Journal of Biogeography 34, (2007). 900913.
Peteet D.M., Vogel J.S., Nelson D.E., Southron J.R., Nickmann R.J., and Heusser L.E. Younger Dryas climatic reversal in northeastern USA? AMS ages for an older problem. Quaternary Research 33, (1990). 219
Ridge J. C. (2003). Chapter 3: The last deglaciation of the northeastern United States: a combined varve, paleomagnetic, and calibrated 14C chronology, in . Cremeens D.L. and Hart J.P., eds., Geoarchaeology of Landscapes in the Glaciated Northeast: New York State Museum Bulletin 497, p. 1545.
Ridge J.C. The Quaternary glaciation of western New England with correlations to surrounding areas. Ehlers J., Gibbard P.L. Quaternary Glaciations—Extent and Chronology, Part II: North America. Developments in Quaternary Science vol. 2B, (2004). Elsevier, Amsterdam. 163193.
Reimer P.J., Baillie M.G.L., Bard E., Bayliss A., Beck J.W., Bertrand C.J.H., Blackwell P.G., Buck C.E., Burr G.S., Cutler K.B., Damon P.E., Edwards R.L., Fairbanks R.G., Friedrich M., Guilderson T.P., Hogg A.G., Hughen K.A., Kromer B., McCormac F.G., Manning S.W., Ramsey C.B., Reimer R.W., Remmele S., Southon J.R., Stuiver M., Talamo S., Taylor F.W., van der Plicht J., and Weyhenmeyer C.E. IntCal04 Terrestrial radiocarbon age calibration, 26–0 ka BP. Radiocarbon 46, (2004). 1029
Reimer P.J., Baillie M.G.L., Bard E., Bayliss A., Beck J.W., Blackwell P.G., Bronk Ramsey C., Buck C.E., Burr G.S., Edwards R.L., Friedrich M., Grootes P.M., Guilderson T.P., Hajdas I., Heaton T.J., Hogg A.G., Hughen K.A., Kaiser K.F., Kromer B., McCormac F.G., Manning S.W., Reimer R.W., Richards D.A., Southon J.R., Talamo S., Turney C.S.M., van der Plicht J., and Weyhenmeyer C.E. IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50, 000 cal yr B.P. Radiocarbon 51, (2009). 111111150.
Shuman B., Bravo J., Kaye J., Lynch J.A., Newby P., Webb T. III Late-Quaternary water-level variations and vegetation history at Crooked Pond, southeastern Massachusetts. Quaternary Research 56, (2001). 401410.
Shuman B.N., Bartlein P.J., Logar N., Newby P., Webb T. III Parallel climate and vegetation responses to the early Holocene collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Quaternary Science Reviews 21, (2002). 17931805.
Shuman B., Newby P., Donnelly J.P., Tarbox A., Webb T. III A record of Late-Quaternary moisture-balance change and vegetation response from the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 95, (2005). 237248.
Shuman B.N., Newby P., and Donnelly J.P. Abrupt climate change as an important agent of ecological change in the Northeast U.S. throughout the past 15, 000 years. Quaternary Science Reviews 28, (2009). 16931709.
Stuiver M., Reimer P. J., and Reimer R. W. (2005). CALIB 6.0.
Vörösmarty C.J., Fekete B., and Tucker B.A., (1996). River Discharge Database, Version 1.0, Vol. 0 through 6. (A contribution to IHP-V Theme 1. Technical Documents in Hydrology Series.), UNESCO, Paris.
Warren C. R., and Hardwood D. S. (1978). Deglaciation ice fronts in the South Sandisfield and Ashley Falls quadrangles, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Miscellaneous Field Studies Map MF-1016, USGS, Denver, Colorado.
Webb R.S., Anderson K.H., and Webb T. Pollen response-surface estimates of Late-Quaternary changes in the moisture balance of the Northeastern United States. Quaternary Research 40, (1993). 213227.
Webb T. III, Anderson K.H., Webb R.S., and Bartlein P.J. Late Quaternary climate changes in eastern North America: a comparison of pollen-derived estimates with climate model results. Quaternary Science Reviews 17, (1998). 333357.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 29 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 22nd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.