Rogation ceremonies: a key to understanding past drought variability in northeastern Spain since 1650
In the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, few studies have reconstructed drought occurrence and variability for the pre-instrumental period using documentary evidence and natural proxies. In this study, we compiled a unique dataset of rogation ceremonies – religious acts asking God for rain – from 13 cities in the northeast of Spain and investigated the annual drought variability from 1650 to 1899 CE. Three regionally different coherent areas (Mediterranean, Ebro Valley, and Mountain) were detected. Both the Barcelona and the regional Mediterranean drought indices were compared with the instrumental series of Barcelona for the overlapping period (1787–1899), where we discovered a highly significant and stable correlation with the Standardized Precipitation Index of May with a 4-month lag (r=-0.46 and r=-0.53; p<0.001, respectively). We found common periods with prolonged droughts (during the mid and late 18th century) and extreme drought years (1775, 1798, 1753, 1691, and 1817) associated with more atmospheric blocking situations. A superposed epoch analysis (SEA) was performed showing a significant decrease in drought events 1 year after the volcanic events, which might be explained by the decrease in evapotranspiration due to reduction in surface temperatures and, consequently, the higher availability of water that increases soil moisture. In addition, we discovered a common and significant drought response in the three regional drought indices 2 years after the Tambora volcanic eruption. Our study suggests that documented information on rogation ceremonies contains important independent evidence to reconstruct extreme drought events in areas and periods for which instrumental information and other proxies are scarce. However, drought index for the mountainous areas (denoted Mountain later in the text) presents various limitations and its interpretation must be treated with caution.