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Ancient trees in Mongolia dating back more than 2,000 years are helping place current and future climate change in context, according to a new study. The study describes the duration and severity of past and future droughts in Mongolia, providing a unique perspective: a historical record that extends to the first millennium. Shorter records would not provide the same context. Using dendrochronology, or the study of ring-growth patterns in trees, researchers created annually dated drought histories from ancient living and dead trees growing on lava flows, extending the instrumental record back more than 2,000 years. The findings from the tree-ring record show that a recent severe drought in Mongolia, which lasted from 2000 to 2010 and resulted in major livestock die-offs, the disappearance of nearly 20 percent of lakes and a massive migration of nomadic herders to the capital city, was extreme, but not unprecedented in the last 2,000 years.

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