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Paleoclimatology of Northern Mongolia using lake sediment cores from the Hovsgol Aimag

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Images from Mongolia

Project Summary

Patterns of late Holocene climate change remain very poorly defined for Northern Mongolia where it has been assessed that pertinent records of climate variability may lie archived in the sediments of small closed basin carbonate lakes. Due to the largely agrarian economy and nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolian people, climate trends play an immediate role in their present and past societies. The recent occurrence of unusually dry summer/cold harsh winter cycles, or Dzuds, has caused economic and medical hardships for the Mongolian people. In 1999/2000 alone over 2.4 million livestock perished due to harsh weather directly or indirectly affecting over 400,000 people and costing an estimated 78.3 million USD. Through investigation into Mongolia’s past climate variations a better understanding of the periodicity and extant of such climatic events may be achieved further helping current efforts at effective natural resource management.

In June of 2003 seven short sediment cores where retrieved from three lakes (Sanjim Nuur, Asgat Nuur, Boorog Nuur) located in an area proximate to the present day taiga/alpine tundra transition zone, a glacial mountain valley on the northern edge of the Hovsgol Aimag. The retrieval of the sediment cores was made possible through cooperative effort between the University of Pittsburgh Department of Geology and Planetary Science, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of Mongolian History as a means to create parallels between climate change and local cultural behavior change.

Through analysis of the retrieved lake cores, we are examining sedimentological (magnetic susceptibility, LOI), geochemical (d18O and d13C of biogenic carbonate, general lake water chemistry), and biological variables in an effort to reconstruct decadal to centennial-scale precipitation and evaporation (P-E) fluctuations in the region. The sediment core analyses will create a high-resolution accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C-dated record of late Holocene climate variability and improve our understanding of the future climate trends in Central Asia.

Thesis

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