Collaborative Research: Reconstructing Hydroclimatic Asian Monsoon Variability for the past Millennium from Tree Rings: Myanmar and Vicinity
More than a billion people depend upon the Asian monsoon rains, but understanding the dynamics behind its modulations on interannual, decadal and centennial scales is hampered by gaps in observational data. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation, along with the Indian Ocean Dipole Mode and other phenomena, can cause severe drought and flood conditions over South and Southeast Asia, which may intensify with projected warming. The region surrounding Myanmar appears to represent a hinge line or transition between major components of the Asian monsoon, but until now has remained largely undocumented. Due to recent political changes Myanmar is now accessible to international scientists, and this team of researchers from the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is among the first to gain such access. This research will generate multiple tree-ring records from teak and other species in Myanmar and adjacent China and Thailand that have been shown to document hydrological variability in the region. The field and analytical work will be complemented by modeling studies of the regional monsoon.
The research will provide some of the first data from an important transitional zone for the Asian monsoon, thereby improving present understanding and modeling of monsoon dynamics over the past millennium. This information is critical for future planning and mitigation of monsoon extremes. There are strong international partnerships with scientists from Myanmar, Thailand, China, and New Zealand. The PIs will host and train several Asian collaborators at Columbia University and offer research experience for undergraduate students through summer internships at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In addition, the research will continue their outreach to inner city students from the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. A workshop in Myanmar on monsoon-related climatology will be conducted in the project's final year. The results of this research will be particularly and directly relevant to the welfare, food security and forest management needs of those vulnerable populations who live within the direct influence of the Asian monsoon.