By Neil Pederson
We are back from our >1800 km road/field trip. We drove for 2 days, conducted fieldwork for 3 days and then drove back over 2 days. We had to get back b/c Byamba has to prepare to go back to Colorado State U to begin classes on Monday.
We scrambled to get to Tsetserleg by nighttime the first day, but transmission issues with our rig delayed our departure from UB. As the sun set, a wind and lightning storm met us. It signaled a change in the weather. Temps were in the 80’s in UB as we packed. By the next morning they were in the 40’s. The extreme continentality of Mongolia made its presence known.
We stopped for breakfast in Tsetserleg. We got the full treatment by a former classmate’s of our Mongolian colleague. Not expecting to know this person, I didn’t recognize this woman I met in the same town 11 yrs ago. It was a great and warm reunion.
From there we finally made it to our first sampling site, through a high pass and to nearly the western end of the Khangai Mtns, ~ 400 km west of Tsetserleg.
The weather continued to deteriorate for field work – it rained and the temps dropped to the 30’s. It snowed at high elevation and it spit snow on us during our first day of sampling. We completed out work, despite the Siberian larch being mostly rotten; we had to core about 5-6trees to get one solid tree. Byamba and Bilaa made a nice fire history collection.
The larch outside our camping site reflected this change in the weather and perhaps foretells and early and cool autumn.
We drove back east stopping at the famous, Sologotyin Davaa, site of the first temperature sensitive chronology in Mongolia. It is over 1000 yrs long and reflects global warming. Ironically, it burned recently. Having worked there and knowing the effort Gordon Jacoby put into the site [and how deeply this site sits in his heart], it made me a bit weepy. We walked the ovoo at the peak of the pass and reflected on the site, events, Mongolia and things in our lives.
We made it to our next site and had lunch prior to hitting the field. When we looked back after reaching our sample point, we were all in awe with the view:
The next day of sampling went pretty well, despite Neil getting a bit of a stomach bug – we had a great team our there the first week! It was an unusual forest – the forest floor was covered with about 2 inches of sphagnum.
Enkhbat revealed his Buddhist tendencies by feeding ants near our camp site pure sugar and dried apple. We were certain he became their god the next morning:
After completing that site, we spent much of the next day driving to our third site. Along the way we passed Khorgo Lava, the long, drought sensitive chronology used in the Selenge Streamflow reconstruction by Davi et al. (2006).
We drove up a beautiful, fertile valley containing the Chuluu Gol (gol = river in Mongolian). There are ruins along the side of the road from past Mongol communities making one feel this has been an important valley for millennia. The livestock looked fat and happy, too.
The last site might contain a major clue on how the larch-dominated forests of Khangai Uul (uul =mountains) how fire severity might change with climate change. We found a larch with perhaps 10 fire scars and other ancient trees surrounded by dense, sapling to pole-sized regeneration – we are drooling to see the data!
We really did have a great team with us. Here are the other members, in no particular order:
oh yeah, the title of this post:
on the drive back we were moving in and our of an intense cold front. it dumped hail, rain and flooded parts of the road. it also produced the best. double. rain. bow. e.v.e.r.
finally, we witnessed a lone sheep wandering a slope, walking in circles and laying down here and there. it was explained that it likely had a brain worm. we eventually watched it wander off into the forest likely to pass on to the other side. on these intense trips, each of us have moments where our brains or bodies are not really functioning to the best of their ability and we could easily wander of path and not complete our work. our team hung tight and supported the wandering sheep in our group. if the remaining weeks are as fun, supportive and productive as this last week, we will have a successful and satisfying Field Season ’10.