A 448- year teak chronology from northwestern Thailand is used to assess past changes in the strength of the summer monsoon. The chronology is based on 30 living trees that extend from 1604 to 2005, and a 47-stump chronology that spans from 1558 to 1903. We used methods of cross dating and chronology building that address problems specifically found in teak. The result is a robust chronology with strong signal strength back to 1600 AD, and with variability retained at the multi-decadal scale. Variability in annual growth in teak from this area is dependent on rainfall and soil moisture availability at both the beginning and end of the monsoon season as confirmed by comparisons with temperature, rainfall and PDSI data. These correlation analyses confirm that our record is a proxy for summer monsoon strength and/ or duration, and highlight the importance of soil moisture availability in the seasons of transition. The chronology reveals two prominent periods of decadal-scale drought in the early and mid 1700s that correspond to persistently warm sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical Pacific as derived from Galapagos Island coral records. Speleothem data from central India also indicate protracted periods of drought for the 1700s. While these broad-scale eighteenth-century persistent droughts may be related to protracted El Nino- like conditions in the tropical Pacific, regional climate forcing over the Indian Ocean and western Pacific sectors appears to be a strong contributor as well. Spectral analyses reveal power in the ENSO range of variability from 2.2 to 4 years, and at the multi-decadal scale at 48.5 years.
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