Hi, I'm Dave Thurlow for the Weather Notebook. The first English people to settle in North America had a rough go of things. One group settled on Roanoke Island, in the Tidewater area of Virginia, around 1560. But the last record of the group is only 27 years later, in 1587.
The scientists found that the worst three years of the mid-Atlantic drought ran from 1587 to 1589. That's precisely when the Lost Colonists turned up missing. Finding and growing food was clearly a challenge, but another hazard that faced the settlers and native Americans was the brackish water they had to drink. Because rainfall was so scarce, the natural salt of the Tidewater became concentrated, and many people died from salt poisoning.
Some historians have blamed these colonies for poor planning and even accused them of being apathetic about their own survival. But according to the new data from tree rings, even the best planned colony would have been severely tested by what could have been the biggest drought of the millennium.
Today's contributing writer is Bob Henson. Our show is produced by the Mount Washington Observatory, underwritten by Subaru, the beauty of all wheel drive, with major support provided by the National Science Foundation.