High-resolution stalagmite δ18O records of Asian monsoon changes in central and southern China spanning the MIS 3/2 transition

Kan Zhao, Yongjin Wang, R. Lawrence Edwards, Hai Cheng, Dianbing Liu

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61 Scopus citations


High-resolution oxygen isotope records of three stalagmites from Sanbao (central China), Wulu (southern China) and Dashibao (southern China) Caves, based on 876 oxygen isotope measurements and 25 precise 230Th dates, provide a detailed Asian monsoon (AM) history from 32.5 to 20.8kaB.P., spanning the shift between Marine Isotope Stages 3 and 2. The calcite δ18O records, although geographically widespread (about 1000km between them), including the previously-reported Hulu record, are similar in timing, shape, and amplitude. These observations support the idea that changes in speleothem δ18O largely represent variations of precipitation isotopic composition associated with large-scale summer monsoon circulation over a large portion of China. These profiles show four centennial to millennial scale strong summer monsoon events, analogous in timing and structure to Greenland Interstadials 5 through 3 (GIS 5-3). Chronology of the events refines the Hulu record and broadly supports the NGRIP GICC05 timescale. Five weak monsoon events are identified at 31.2, 30.1, 28.1, 25.7 and 24.2kaB.P., all of which correspond to stadial events in Greenland. The 30.1 and 24.2ka events correlate with Heinrich stadials 3 and 2. Furthermore, these events correlate to warm episodes in Antarctic ice cores, indicating that the climatic response to North Atlantic cooling is similar in China and in Antarctica, but in an opposite sense. These observations are consistent with the bi-polar seesaw hypothesis. The strong coupling between AM circulation and climate at both high latitudes at the centennial scale indicates that atmospheric circulation changes are important in transmitting abrupt climate signals globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-198
Number of pages8
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 15 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Prof. Anders Svensson for his generous technical comments on an early version of the manuscript. Thanks are also given to an anonymous reviewer for his/her critical and instructive comments. This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China grants (nos. 40631003 , 40771009 and 40702026 ), U.S. National Science Foundation grant 0502535 and Gary Comer Science and Education Foundation grant CP41 .


  • Asian monsoon
  • Bi-polar seesaw
  • Chinese stalagmite
  • Last Glacial Period


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