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Tree rings tell tale of drought in Mongolia over the last 2,000 years

By Dan Garisto

A new analysis is shedding light on drought in Mongolia, both past and future.

By studying the rings of semifossilized trees, researchers constructed a climate history for the semiarid Asian nation spanning the last 2,060 years — going 1,000 years further back than previous studies.

It was suspected that a harsh drought from about 2000 to 2010 that killed tens of thousands of livestock was unprecedented in the region’s history and primarily the result of human-caused climate change. But the tree ring data show that the dry spell, while rare in its severity, was not outside the realm of natural climate variability, researchers report online March 14 in Science Advances.

“This is a part of the world where we don’t know about the past climate,” says Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., who was not involved with the study. “Having this record is a great resource for trying to understand past droughts in the region.”

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Thursday, March 22, 2018