Climatic Change

, Volume 139, Issue 3–4, pp 651–665 | Cite as

Upper Irtysh River flow since AD 1500 as reconstructed by tree rings, reveals the hydroclimatic signal of inner Asia

  • Feng Chen
  • Yujiang Yuan
  • Nicole Davi
  • Tongwen Zhang


In a warming world, water scarcity is one of the main concerns for sustainable development and human well-being in inner Asia. Due to the lack of instrumental streamflow records, the natural variability of the water supply from inner Asian rivers is not well understood from a long-term perspective. Here, we have reconstructed the streamflow of Upper Irtysh River from AD 1500 to 2010, based on the tree-ring width indices of spruce (Picea obovata) and larch (Larix sibirica) from the Altay Mountains. The reconstruction explains 48.4 % of the recorded streamflow variance over the common period 1958–2008. This streamflow reconstruction is representative of regional moisture conditions over the Irtysh River basin area. Some significant spectral peaks are identified, and suggest the influence of natural forcing on the streamflow of the Upper Irtysh River, such as ENSO and solar activity. The linkages of our reconstruction with sea surface temperature in the northern Indian Ocean, eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, and equatorial Atlantic Ocean suggest the connection of regional streamflow variations to large-scale atmospheric circulation. We also find that there is the relationship between regional drought/streamflow variations in inner Asia and the interaction of the mid-latitude Westerlies and Asian summer monsoon. Our 511-year streamflow reconstruction provides a long-term perspective on current and twentieth century wet and dry events in the Irtysh River basin, is useful to guide predictions of future variability, and aids future water resource management.


Irtysh River Tree rings Streamflow reconstruction Sea surface temperature Atmospheric circulation 



This work was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (No. 41275120 and 91447115), Excellent Youth Science and Technology Innovation Personnel Training Project of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (qn2015yx040), and the Young Talent Training Plan of Meteorological Departments of China Meteorological Administration. Particular thanks are extended to the reviewers for their valuable suggestions and comments regarding the revision of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1814_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


  1. Büntgen U, Myglan VS, Ljungqvist FC, McCormick M, Di Cosmo N, Sigl M, Jungclaus J, Wagner S, Krusic PJ, Esper J, Kaplan JO, de Vaan M, Luterbacher J, Wacker L, Tegel W, Kirdyanov AV (2016) Cooling and societal change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age from 536 to around 660 AD. Nat Geosci. doi: 10.1038/NGEO2652 Google Scholar
  2. Chen FH, Yu ZC, Yang ML, Ito E, Wang S, Madsen DB, Huang XZ, Zhao Y, Sato T, John H, Birks B, Boomer I, Chen J, An CB, Wünnemann B (2008) Holocene moisture evolution in arid central Asia and its out-of-phase relationship with Asian monsoon history. Quat Sci Rev 27:351–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chen F, Yuan YJ, Wei WS, SL Y, Zhang TW (2012) Climatic response of ring width and maximum latewood density of Larix sibirica in the Altay Mountains, reveals recent warming trends. Ann. For Sci 69:723–733Google Scholar
  4. Chen F, Yuan YJ, Chen FH, Wei WS, SL Y, Chen XJ, Fan ZA, Zhang RB, Zhang TW, Shang HM, Qin L (2013) A 426-year drought history for western Tian Shan, Central Asia inferred from tree-rings and its linkages to the North Atlantic and indo–West Pacific oceans. The Holocene 23:1095–1104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen F, Yuan YJ, WeiWS ZTW, Shang HM, Zhang RB (2014) Precipitation reconstruction for the southern Altay Mountains (China) from tree rings of Siberian spruce, reveals recent wetting trend. Dendrochronologia 32:266–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen F, Yuan YJ, Wei WS, SL Y, Zhang TW, Shang HM, Fan ZA (2015) Tree-ring recorded hydroclimatic change in Tienshan mountains during the past 500 years. Quat Int 358:35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen F, Yuan YJ, Yu SL, Shang HM, Zhang TW (2016) Tree-ring based reconstruction of precipitation in the Urumqi region, China, since AD 1580 reveals changing drought signals. Clim Res. doi: 10.3354/cr01368 Google Scholar
  8. Cook ER, Kairiukstis LA (1990) Methods of Dendrochronology: Applications in the Environmental Sciences. Kluwer Academic Publishers, BostonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cook ER, Anchukaitis KJ, Buckley BM, D’Arrigo RD, Jacoby GC, Wright WE (2010) Asian monsoon failure and megadrought during the last millennium. Science 328(5977):486–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cook ER, Palmer JG, Ahmed M, Woodhouse CA, Fenwick P, Zafar MU, Wahab M, Khan N (2013) Five centuries of upper Indus River flow from tree rings. J Hydrol 486:365–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dai A (2011) Drought under global warming: a review. Wires. Clim Chang 2:45–65Google Scholar
  12. Dai XG, Wang P, Zhang KJ (2013) A study on precipitation trend and fluctuation mechanism in northwestern China over the past 60 years. Acta Phys Sin 62:129201Google Scholar
  13. Davi N, Jacoby GC, Curtis A, Nachin B (2006) Extension of drought records for Central Asia using tree rings: West Central Mongolia. J Clim 19:288–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davi NK, Jacoby GC, D'Arrigo RD, Baatarbileg N, Li JB, Curtis AE (2009) A tree-ring-based drought index reconstruction for far-western Mongolia: 1565-2004. Int J Climatol 29:1508–1514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davi NK, Pederson N, Leland C, Nachin B, Suran B, Jacoby GC (2013) Is eastern Mongolia drying? A long-term perspective of a multidecadal trend. Water Resour Res 49:151–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fang KY, Davi N, Gou XH, Chen FH, Cook ED, Li JB, D’Arrigo R (2010) Spatial drought reconstructions for central high Asia based on tree rings. Clim Dyn 35:941–951CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gou XH, Deng Y, Chen FH, Yang MX, Fang KY, Gao LL, Yang T, Zhang F (2010) Tree ring based streamflow reconstruction for the upper Yellow River over the past 1234 years. Chin Sci Bull 55:4179–4186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gray ST, Graumlich LJ, Betancourt JL, Pederson GT (2004) A tree-ring based reconstruction of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation since 1567 A.D.. Geophy Res Lett 31: L12205, doi: 10.1029/2004GL019932
  19. Hale GE (1924) The law of sun-spot polarity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 10(1):53–55Google Scholar
  20. Holmes RL (1983) Computer-assisted quality control in tree-ring dating and measurement. Tree-Ring Bull 43:69–78Google Scholar
  21. Huang J, Yu H, Guan X, Wang G, Guo R (2015a) Accelerated dryland expansion under climate change. Nat Clim Chang. doi: 10.1038/nclimate2837 Google Scholar
  22. Huang W, Chen JH, Zhang XJ, Feng S, Chen FH (2015b) Definition of the core zone of the “westerlies-dominated climatic regime”, and its controlling factors during the instrumental period. Sci China Earth Sci 58(5):676–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the IPCC. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Jolliffe I (2002) Principal component analysis. Library, Wiley OnlineGoogle Scholar
  25. Kulkarni AV, Karyakarte Y (2014) Observed changes in Himalayan glaciers. Curr Sci 106:237–244Google Scholar
  26. Li JB, Cook ER, Chen FH, Gou XH, D’Arrigo R, Yuan YJ (2010) An extreme drought event in the central Tien Shan area in the year 1945. J Arid Environ 74:1225–1231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Li JB, Xie SP, Cook ER, Huang G, D'Arrigo RD, Liu F, Ma J, Zheng XT (2011) Interdecadal modulation of el Niño amplitude during the past millennium. Nature. Clim Chang 1:114–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Loaiciga HA, Valdes JB, Vogel R, Garvey J, Schwarz H (1996) Global warming and the hydrologic cycle. J Hydrol 174:83–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mann ME, Lees J (1996) Robust estimation of background noise and signal detection in climatic time series. Clim Chang 33:409–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mitchell TD, Jones PD (2005) Animprovedmethod of constructing a database ofmonthly climate observations and associated high-resolution grids. Int J Climatol 25:639–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Niederer P, Bilenko V, Ershova N, Hurni H, Yerokhin S, Maselli D (2008) Tracing glacier wastage in the northern Tien Shan (Kyrgyzstan/Central Asia) over the last 40 years. Clim Chang 86(1–2):227–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Oberhänsli H, Novotná K, Píšková A, Chabrillat S, Nourgaliev DK, Kurbaniyazov A, Grygar TM (2011) Variability in precipitation, temperature and river runoff in W Central Asia during the past approximately 2000 yrs. Glob Planet Chang 76:95–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Osborn TJ, Briffa KR, Jones PD (1997) Adjusting variance for sample-size in tree-ring chronologies and other regional mean time series. Dendrochronologia 15:89–99Google Scholar
  34. Pederson N, Jacoby GC, D’Arrigo RD, Cook ER, Buckley BM, Dugarjav C, Mijiddorj R (2001) Hydrometeorological reconstructions for northeastern Mongolia derived from tree rings: 1651–1995. J Climate 14:872–881Google Scholar
  35. Pederson N, Lealand C, Nachin B, Hessl A, Bell A, Saladyga T, Suran B, Brown P, Davi N (2013a) Four-hundred years of drought history in Mongolia’s breadbasket. Agric For Meteorol 178–179:10–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pederson N, Leland C, Nachin B, Hessl AE, Bell AR, Martin-Benito D, Saladygae T, Suran B, Brown PM, Davi NK (2013b) Three centuries of shifting hydroclimatic regimes across the Mongolian breadbasket. Agric For Meteorol 178:10–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rayner NA, Parker DE, Horton EB, Folland CK, Alexander LV, Rowell DP, Kent EC, Kaplan A (2003) A global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res 08(D14): 4407. doi: 10.1029/2002JD002670
  38. Siegfried T, Bernauer T, Guiennet R, Sellars S, Robertson AW, Mankin J, Bauer-Gottwein P, Yakovlev A (2012) Will climate change exacerbate water stress in Central Asia? Clim Chang 112(3–4):881–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stokes MA, Smiley TL (1968) An introduction to tree-ring dating. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  40. Tan ZM, Feng ZR (2003) Brief talk about water service integral and utilization of water resource used the Irtysh–Karamay–Urumqi canal. Urban Roads Bridges Flood Control 6:61–62 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  41. Torrence C, Compo GP (1998) A practical guide to wavelet analysis. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 79:61–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. van der Schrier G, Barichivich J, Briffa KR, Jones PD (2013) A scPDSI-based global data set of dry and wet spells for 1901–2009. J Geophys Res Atmos 118:4025–4048CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wigley TML, Briffa KR, Jones PD (1984) On the average value of correlated time series, with applications in dendroclimatology and hydrometeorology. J Clim Appl Meteorol 23:201–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yang B, Qin C, Shi F, Sonechkin M (2012) Tree ring-based annual streamflow reconstruction for the Heihe river in arid northwestern China from AD 575 and its implications for water resource management. The Holocene 22:773–784CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yao TD, Wang YQ, Liu SY, Pu JC, Shen YP, Lu AX (2004) Recent glacial retreat in high Asia in China and its impact on water resource in Northwest China. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci 47: 1065–1075Google Scholar
  46. Zhou XJ, Zhao P, Liu G (2009) Asian-Pacific oscillation index and variation of east Asian summer monsoon over the past millennium. Chin Sci Bull 54:3768–3771CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feng Chen
    • 1
  • Yujiang Yuan
    • 1
  • Nicole Davi
    • 2
    • 3
  • Tongwen Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tree-ring Physical and Chemic Research of China Meteorological Administration/Key Laboratory of Tree-ring Ecology of Uigur Autonomous RegionChina Meteorological AdministrationUrumqiChina
  2. 2.Department of Environmental ScienceWilliam Paterson UniversityWayneUSA
  3. 3.Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia UniversityPalisadesUSA

Personalised recommendations