JAN 01, 2021 5:49 PM PST

Reading the history of monsoons

New data from river basins in the Asian Monsoon region reconstruct the histories of annual river discharge from 41 rivers using dendrochronology. The study provides a record of 813 years of data that can help scientists to better understand the climate patterns of some of the world’s largest rivers.

The data is published in a study in Water Resources Research by researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The team created a model to look at river discharge from 1200-2012 based on data from a previously published paleodrought record called the Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas (MADA).

"Our results reveal that rivers in Asia behave in a coherent pattern. Large droughts and major pluvial periods have often occurred simultaneously in adjacent or nearby basins. Sometimes, droughts stretched as far as from the Godavari in India to the Mekong in Southeast Asia. This has important implications for water management, especially when a country's economy depends on multiple river basins, like in the case of Thailand," explained first author Nguyen Tan Thai Hung.

Another key finding that the study discovered concerned the interactions between Asian rivers and the oceans. While previous investigations have shown how oceanic events like El Niño influence rivers in the Asian Monsoon region by way of atmospheric circulation, this most recent investigation revealed that these interactions are not constant. In fact, the model showed that Asian rivers were much less influenced by the oceans in the first half of the 20th century compared to the 50 years before and 50 years after that time.

Photo: Pixabay

The authors comment on the significance of their findings, saying it is imperative to comprehend historical climate patterns in order to understand current and future patterns and make informed decisions.

"This research is of great importance to policymakers; we need to know where and why river discharge changed during the past millennium to make big decisions on water-dependent infrastructure. One such example is the development of the ASEAN Power Grid, conceived to interconnect a system of hydropower, thermoelectric, and renewable energy plants across all ASEAN countries. Our records show that 'mega-droughts' have hit multiple power production sites simultaneously, so we can now use this information to design a grid that is less vulnerable during extreme events," said principal investigator Associate Professor Stefano Galelli.

Sources: Water Resources Research, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JAN 16, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Monitoring sea surface temperatures in the Pacific
JAN 16, 2021
Monitoring sea surface temperatures in the Pacific
New research published in Geophysical Research Letters reports more glum climate news: the northwestern Pacifi ...
FEB 07, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA Promotes the Development of Hybrid Aircraft
FEB 07, 2021
NASA Promotes the Development of Hybrid Aircraft
Air travel is thought to be a significant contributor to emissions that lead to climate change. NASA is now launching an ...
FEB 22, 2021
Earth & The Environment
How can we quantify the sanitation services of nature?
FEB 22, 2021
How can we quantify the sanitation services of nature?
Research published in the journal One Earth reports that ecosystem services are responsible for up to 18% of sanitation ...
MAR 05, 2021
Plants & Animals
Scientists Heal Diseased Corals
MAR 05, 2021
Scientists Heal Diseased Corals
The world's coral reefs face numerous threats, including climate change, pollution, and habitat loss. Since 2014, an ...
MAR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Sea Slug Shows Extreme Case of Regeneration
MAR 09, 2021
Sea Slug Shows Extreme Case of Regeneration
Some of the most interesting—and possibly strangest—scientific discoveries happen by accident. According to ...
APR 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
How does mountain growth affect chemical weathering and the carbon cycle?
APR 09, 2021
How does mountain growth affect chemical weathering and the carbon cycle?
A study published in Nature Geoscience reports new findings on the effects that erosion has on the carbon cycle. The stu ...
Loading Comments...