Three centuries of Myanmar monsoon climate variability inferred from teak tree rings



[1] Asian monsoon extremes critically impact much of the globe’s population. Key gaps in our understanding of monsoon climate remain due to sparse coverage of paleoclimatic information, despite intensified recent efforts. Here we describe a ring width chronology of teak, one of the first high-resolution proxy records for the nation of Myanmar. Based on 29 samples from 20 living trees and spanning from 1613–2009, this record, from the Maingtha forest reserve north of Mandalay, helps fill a substantial gap in spatial coverage of paleoclimatic records for monsoon Asia. Teak growth is positively correlated with rainfall and Palmer Drought Severity Index variability over Myanmar, during and prior to the May–September monsoon season (e.g., r = 0.38 with Yangon rainfall, 0.001, n 68). Importantly, this record also correlates significantly with larger-scale climate indices, including core Indian rainfall (23°N, 76°E; a particularly sensitive index of the monsoon), and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The teak ring width value following the so-called 1997–98 El Niño of the Century suggests that this was one of the most severe droughts in the past ∼300 years in Myanmar. Evidence for past dry conditions inferred for Myanmar is consistent with tree-ring records of decadal megadroughts developed for Thailand and Vietnam. These results confirm the climate signature related to monsoon rainfall in the Myanmar teak record and the considerable potential for future development of climate-sensitive chronologies from Myanmar and the broader region of monsoon Asia.