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Tree rings provide insight into Asia’s devastating droughts

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 24 April 2010

The seasonal monsoon rains in Asia feed nearly half the world’s population, and when the rains fail to come, people can go hungry, or worse.

Scientists sampling the wood of 1000 year old hemlock. Credit: Brendan Buckley.

A new study of tree rings provides the most detailed record yet of at least four epic droughts that have shaken Asia over the last thousand years, from one that may have helped bring down China’s Ming Dynasty in 1644, to another that caused tens of millions of people to starve to death in the late 1870s.

The study, published this week in the journal Science, is expected not only to help historians understand how environment has affected the past, but to aid scientists trying to understand the potential for large-scale disruptions of weather in the face of changing climate.

For some tree species, rainfall determines the width of their annual growth rings, and these rings are what the scientists were able to read. The tree-ring records in the study reveal at least four great droughts that are linked to catastrophic events in history.

Read the full report: The Earth Institute, Columbia University

1 comment to Tree rings provide insight into Asia’s devastating droughts

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