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News Release 04-079

Tree-Ring Laboratory Receives $5.5 Million to Study Climate Dynamics

June 1, 2004

ARLINGTON, Va.—The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the Tree-Ring Laboratory of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), Columbia University, a $5.5 million grant to study one of the largest climate systems affecting the globe—Asian monsoons.

The five-year study will apply the science of tree-ring analysis (dendrochronology) to key questions regarding the processes that drive development of the monsoon and its various characteristics through different regions.

"This is the single largest award for tree-ring research from NSF and represents an aggressive investment in tree-ring research. The aim of this award is to create opportunities that enhance creativity and provide for leaps in understanding of the monsoon," said David Verardo, director of NSF's paleoclimate program, which funded the project. "The science questions being asked are important, and the region being studied is vital to understanding fundamental climate processes at the planetary scale."

The Asian monsoon is one of the most important modes of natural climate variability on Earth, with differing regional impacts over areas extending from Africa to Australasia, northward into central Asia, to the Pacific Ocean. Dozens of countries and nearly half the global population are affected by the climate variability it brings. Due to its considerable importance to global climate and implications for the world's population, there is an urgent need for greater understanding of this system, say scientists, with the ultimate goal being improved prediction on annual to decadal and longer time scales.

"Tree-ring records provide quantitative estimates of past climate on a year-by-year time scale; this allows us to reconstruct more complete records of variations and interrelationships among the components of the Asian monsoon system," said scientist Ed Cook of LDEO, principal investigator for the study.

Analysis of tree ring data throughout "Monsoon Asia" will enable scientists to reconstruct and analyze regional climate histories over timeframes of centuries to millennia. The data will also reveal information on three major process regions that collectively drive much of the variability of the Asian monsoon: Asian land-surface air temperatures, sea-surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean, and tropical Pacific sea-surface temperatures associated with El Nino. Identifying interrelationships among these regions, and how the Asian monsoon manifests itself in different regions across the globe, will lead to the development of improved models for better long-term forecasting, the researchers believe. With approximately one half the world’s population impacted by the Asian monsoon, long-term forecasting will have profound social and economic impacts, such as improved agricultural planning and risk assessment.

The tree-ring reconstructions of Asian monsoon climate dynamics project is led by scientists Edward Cook, Rosanne D'Arrigo, Brendan Buckley and Gordon Jacoby, all of LDEO.


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734,
Mary Tobin, LDEO, (845) 365-8607,

Program Contacts
Dave Verardo, NSF, (703) 292-8520,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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