Holocene ENSO-related cyclic storms recorded by magnetic minerals in speleothems of central China

Zongmin Zhu, Joshua M. Feinberg, Shucheng Xie, Mark D. Bourne, Chunju Huang, Chaoyong Hu, Hai Cheng

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159 Scopus citations


Extreme hydrologic events such as storms and floods have the potential to severely impact modern human society. However, the frequency of storms and their underlying mechanisms are limited by a paucity of suitable proxies, especially in inland areas. Here we present a record of speleothem magnetic minerals to reconstruct paleoprecipitation, including storms, in the eastern Asian monsoon area over the last 8.6 ky. The geophysical parameter IRMsoft-flux represents the flux of soil-derived magnetic minerals preserved in stalagmite HS4, which we correlate with rainfall amount and intensity. IRMsoft-flux exhibits relatively higher values before 6.7 ky and after 3.4 ky and lower values in the intervening period, consistent with regional hydrological changes observed in independent records. Abrupt enhancements in the flux of pedogenic magnetite in the stalagmite agree well with the timing of known regional paleofloods and with equatorial El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) patterns, documenting the occurrence of ENSO-related storms in the Holocene. Spectral power analyses reveal that the storms occur on a significant 500-y cycle, coincident with periodic solar activity and ENSO variance, showing that reinforced (subdued) storms in central China correspond to reduced (increased) solar activity and amplified (damped) ENSO. Thus, the magnetic minerals in speleothem HS4 preserve a record of the cyclic storms controlled by the coupled atmosphere-oceanic circulation driven by solar activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-857
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 31 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants 41674072 and 41322013), State Key R&D program of China (Grant 2016YFA0601100), and the 111 program (National Bureau for Foreign Experts and the Ministry of Education of China, Grants B08030 and B14031). This is contribution #1511 of the Institute for Rock Magnetism, which is funded by the National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences Instruments and Facilities Program.


  • Environmental magnetism
  • Paleoclimate
  • Paleoprecipitation
  • Speleothems
  • Storms


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