Implications of stalagmite density for past climate change: An example from stalagmite growth during the last deglaciation from Wanxiang Cave, western Loess Plateau

De Zhong Zhang, Ping Zhong Zhang, Wen Cui Sang, Hai Cheng, Xiu Ping Wu, Ye Yuan, Yi Jun Bai, Jiang Lin Wang, Ji Hong Jia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The density of a stalagmite (WX42A) from Wanxiang Cave, Wudu County, Gansu Province, China, in the western margin of the Asian summer monsoon region, presents regular fluctuations in different deposition periods during the last deglaciation. Over long timescales, high-precision 230Th dating and high-resolution stalagmite density data indicate that the density-time series between 17644 a BP and 12758 a BP is quite similar to the stalagmite δ18O record which reflects Asian monsoon intensity. Strengthening/weakening (lighter/heavier stalagmite δ18O values) of the Asian monsoon is accompanied by increase/decrease in stalagmite density. Over short timescales, decrease in stalagmite density correlates to monsoon-retreat events such as the Inter-Allerød Cold Period (IACP), Older Dryas (OD) and Inter-Bølling Cold Period (IBCP). Generally, this kind of decrease in stalagmite density reflects precipitation decrease with weakening of the Asian monsoon, which in turn slows cave dripwater rate and decreases crystal nuclei, leading to enlargement of calcite crystals, weakened biological activity and decreased soil pCO2 which increases the abundance of impure detrital materials in stalagmites. However, during the period of large amplitude reduction of precipitation and biological activity which resulted from extreme monsoon-retreat events, temperature variation would dominate fluctuation of stalagmite density. For example, stalagmite density increased suddenly when temperature dropped suddenly in the north Atlantic during Heinrich event 1 (H-1). This may be caused by low seepage water temperature, more dissolved calcium carbonate, compact regular crystals forming under higher supersaturation, leading to the stalagmite increased density. Stalagmite density fluctuation sensitively recorded stalagmite growth history and environment, demonstrating that stalagmite density can be used as a proxy for paleoclimatic research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3936-3943
Number of pages8
JournalChinese Science Bulletin
Issue number34
StatePublished - Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Comments and suggestions from two anonymous reviewers greatly improved this manuscript. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40973007 and 40772110) and the Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education (200807300030).


  • Asian monsoon
  • Climate change
  • Monsoon margin
  • Stalagmite density
  • Wanxiang Cave


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