Holocene variability of East Asian summer monsoon as viewed from the speleothem δ18O records in central China

Yanjun Cai, Xing Cheng, Le Ma, Ruixue Mao, Sebastian F.M. Breitenbach, Haiwei Zhang, Gang Xue, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Zhisheng An

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18 Scopus citations


Monsoon precipitation in East China shows distinct spatial distribution and its variability is closely linked with the changes of the East Asian summer monsoon (EASM). Located in the transition zone between the southern subtropical humid climate and the northern warm temperate semi-humid climate, central China is a core region for recognizing and understanding the spatio-temporal variability of the EASM. Using U-series dating and stable isotope analysis on five stalagmites (MG-1, MG-2, MG-7, MG-40 and MG-64) from Magou Cave, Henan Province, Central China, we construct a high-resolution and precisely dated composite stalagmite δ18O time series covering most of the Holocene. This composite record reveals variations in precipitation δ18O between 11.7 and 1.1 ka BP with average resolution of ∼4 yrs. The Magou composite record demonstrates that EASM intensity dominates long-term changes in precipitation δ18O, which generally follows the northern hemisphere summer insolation (NHSI) trend. Both, Ensemble Empirical Mode Decomposition (EEMD) and wavelet filtering analyses real that the amplitudes of long-term (100-500 and 500-3000 yrs) components were slightly reduced between 8.5 and 4.9 ka BP, implying a weakened influence of climatic forcings on centennial and even millennial timescales during this warm period. Variance on 1-30-yr timescales is relatively low and ascribed to sampling resolution. Fourteen weak EASM intervals, including the 8.2 ka event, were identified within the period corresponding broadly with the Holocene Megathermal. Since no cold excursions other than the 8.2 ka event are found in the Greenland ice core records, we tentatively propose that oscillations in tropical sea surface temperature (SST) likely play an important role in steering other weak monsoon events. Aligning the Magou composite record and other moisture records with archaeological records from the study region, it seems that climate change influenced both the spatial distribution and agricultural practices of ancient cultures. However, overall moderate climatic changes in this region, most likely characterized by shifts between subtropical humid climate and warm temperate semi-humid climate, supported a generally consecutive development of ancient cultures without major hiatuses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116758
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Mar 15 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful suggestions. This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China ( 2017YFA0603401 ), the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB 40010200 ) and National Natural Science Foundation of China grants ( 41888101 ), and the Young Talent Support Plan of Xi'an Jiaotong University .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • East Asian summer monsoon
  • Holocene
  • central China
  • stable isotopes
  • stalagmite
  • variability


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