PIRE: Climate Research Education in the Americas using Tree-Ring and Cave Sediment Examples (PIRE-CREATE)

Lead PI: Dr. Rosanne D'Arrigo , Jason E Smerdon

Unit Affiliation: Biology and Paleo Environment, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

September 2017 - August 2021
North America ; South America ; Argentina ; Brazil ; Bolivia ; Peru
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The future climate of the Americas is uncertain and presents a challenge as countries strive to prepare for droughts, floods, or wildfires. Future preparation may be guided by a better understanding of how climate varied naturally over the past millennium - preceding the start of the industrial revolution and significant human impact on the environment. Our PIRE brings together a team of international experts from five research institutions in the United States, Brazil and Argentina. By improving our understanding of past climate variations over North and South America, we will place future climate projections within a longer-term framework to better inform international policymakers and stakeholders. PIRE researchers will investigate the nature of extreme events over the two continents during the last one thousand years by merging data from the two largest tree-ring and cave sediment (stalagmite) archives in South America with new, unpublished records. Our research will enlarge our understanding of the underlying causes of past climate perturbations, many of which were associated with large societal impacts (famine, disease and warfare). We will prepare a new generation of students and postdoctoral scholars through the interdisciplinary research training. Results will be translated into visualization models and toolkits of policy-relevant climate information for the scientific community, government and civil society. The international partners are from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. This award is co-funded by the Paleoclimate program.


Narrowing the range of possible future outcomes from climate change projections over North and South America demands enhanced scientific understanding of the natural continuum of climate variability. The goal of the PIRE-CREATE is to advance our knowledge of paleoclimate over the Americas to identify drivers of climate change from a paleo-perspective. By combining new tree-ring chronologies and speleothem records, the PIRE's research team will investigate the characteristics and causes of climate extremes spanning North and South America during the last millennium. Specifically, the PIRE will advance the following scientific objectives: 1) document the sensitivity of the South American monsoon to external forcing; 2) create a new reconstruction of the El Niño - Southern Oscillation and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation; 3) identify past extreme events and analyze their causes and societal response; 4) merge tree-ring and speleothem records over tropical South America into a new blended product that serves as the basis for a spatiotemporal climate reconstruction over tropical South America; and 5) reduce the uncertainty of future projections by constraining past model performance with observed variability from proxies. This PIRE will produce new climate reconstructions, detect and analyze past climate extremes (droughts, wildfires, floods) and their societal response, create a new paleo-product by synergistically blending different proxies, and better constrain regional-scale future projections based on past model-data comparisons, which will serve as an ideal testbed for model assessment. In addition, this PIRE will prepare a globally competent, interdisciplinary trained, scientific workforce by a) immersing graduate and undergraduate students in research activities involving data collection in the field, analysis of lab observations and models, and dissemination of data and findings; b) strengthening cultural literacy and the enrichment of students, postdocs and faculty through scholarly collaboration with PIRE colleagues, visiting early-career fellowships, and international online courses; c) enhancing the global competence of undergraduate and graduate students with a semester abroad at partner institutions facilitated through PIRE Offices of International Education, mentorship through an international committee, and graduate research activities; d) providing experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students through international summer schools and hands-on training; and e) broadening participation in STEM by hosting six PIRE Academies aimed at undergraduate students across SUNY - particularly, SUNY's 125,000 minority and 225,000 female students. Further, the PIRE will serve to enhance awareness and knowledge of the future risks associated with climate change across the Americas by translating its research findings into novel, easy-to-use visualization tools to increase comprehension of complex paleoclimate data, model projections, and impacts of climate change over the two continents. The PIRE's partners will also co-host two International Forums bringing together scientists, government officials, legislators, ministry staff and other key stakeholders from the Americas to learn about the PIRE's research findings, to disseminate visualization models and toolkits, and to transform the scientific results into actionable planning options and policy considerations for North and South America, as well as the wider global community.

OUTCOMES: Steiger, Nathan J. and Smerdon, Jason E. and Cook, Edward R. and Cook, Benjamin I.. "A reconstruction of global hydroclimate and dynamical variables over the Common Era," Scientific Data, v.5, 2018. doi:10.1038/sdata.2018.86 Citation details

Dai, Aiguo and Zhao, Tianbao and Chen, Jiao. "Climate Change and Drought: a Precipitation and Evaporation Perspective," Current Climate Change Reports, 2018. doi:10.1007/s40641-018-0101-6 Citation details

Novello, V. F. and Cruz, F. W. and Moquet, J. S. and Vuille, M. and de Paula, M. S. and Nunes, D. and Edwards, R. L. and Cheng, H. and Karmann, I. and Utida, G. and Stríkis, N. M. and Campos, J. L.. "Two Millennia of South Atlantic Convergence Zone Variability Reconstructed From Isotopic Proxies," Geophysical Research Letters, v.45, 2018. doi:10.1029/2017GL076838 Citation details

Apaéstegui, James and Cruz, Francisco William and Vuille, Mathias and Fohlmeister, Jens and Espinoza, Jhan Carlo and Sifeddine, Abdelfettah and Strikis, Nicolas and Guyot, Jean Loup and Ventura, Roberto and Cheng, Hai and Edwards, R. Lawrence. "Precipitation changes over the eastern Bolivian Andes inferred from speleothem ( ? 18 O) records for the last 1400 years," Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v.494, 2018. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2018.04.048 Citation details

Vuille, Mathias. "Current state and future challenges in stable isotope applications of the tropical hydrologic cycle ( Invited Commentary )," Hydrological Processes, v.32, 2018. doi:10.1002/hyp.11490 Citation details


State University of New York at Albany


National Science Foundation




Mathias Vuille, Catherine Lawson, Aiguo Dai, Laia Andreu-Hayles, Park Williams, Mariano S. Morales, Eugenia Ferrero, Duncan Christie, Jimmy Edilson Requena Rojas, Rodolfo Rodríguez, Carla Maldonado, Sebastian Tello


Ocean & Climate Physics (O&CP)


Instituto Argentino de Nivología, Glaciología y Ciencias Ambientales, Missouri Botanical Garden, Herbario Nacional de Bolivia (LPB), Universidad de Piura, Universidad Austral de Chile, Universidad Continental - Huancayo




speleothem records climate change natural disaster monsoon el nino southern oscillation (enso) climate variability interdecadal pacific oscillation past climate cave sediments tree rings education


Modeling and Adapting to Future Climate