GC21E-1025: Climate-Induced Disasters in the Livestock Sector in Mongolia: Reconstructions and Dynamical Insights

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Authors: Nicole K Davi1, 2, Bradfield Lyon2, Rosanne D'Arrigo1, Neil Pederson1, Caroline Leland1, Ashley Curtis2

Author Institutions: 1. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA; 2. International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Earth Institute, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA

Mongolia is a remote, semiarid nation heavily dependent on herding and animal resources, which makes the country especially vulnerable to climatic extremes. Over the past decade, Mongolia has undergone several climate-induced disasters resulting in widespread livestock loss and economic hardship. The climatological events responsible for this widespread mortality are commonly called ‘dzud’, defined as severe summer drought followed by a very harsh winter. The frequency and severity of dzuds may now be on the rise because of global warming coupled with shifts in land-use. Yet, despite great cost to Mongolia’s livestock, humans and economy, knowledge of the causes, mechanisms and long-term variability of such events is largely lacking. Here, we utilize a network of drought-sensitive tree-ring data across Mongolia to capture long-term summer drought patterns. These hydrological reconstructions are critical for Mongolia, particularly if alterations in streamflow are being considered and because of the potential negative impacts of drought on the animal agriculture sector. In Eastern Mongolia we find that variations in streamflow have been much greater in the past than what is seen in the instrumental record. While recent droughts are severe and disturbing economic and ecological systems in Mongolia and it appears that eastern Mongolia is drying, the drying trend since the late 1900s might in fact be the result of a return to more characteristic hydroclimatic conditions of the past four centuries in Mongolia after a prolonged era of repeated and extended wet episodes. Decadal length droughts and pluvials are not uncommon in the context of the past four centuries. We also evaluate the effects of drought and pluvials on grassland productivity and the relation to livestock mortality rates over the past 50 years. The historical dzud years and observations are used to characterize both large and regional scale atmospheric circulation features (and possible teleconnections) associated with the summer and winter components of dzud events over the past half-century.

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