Inter-relationship and environmental significance of stalagmite δ13C and δ18O records from Zhenzhu Cave, north China, over the last 130 ka

Yunxia Li, Zhiguo Rao, Qinghai Xu, Shengrui Zhang, Xiaokang Liu, Zongli Wang, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Fahu Chen

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3 Scopus citations


There is a vigorous and ongoing debate about the interpretation of the stalagmite δ18O record from east China as an indicator of East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) intensity. This is mainly because of the inconsistent spatial variation of precipitation amount in east China, but the generally consistent variation of precipitation δ18O, on various timescales. However, a direct comparison of a proxy record of precipitation amount with the δ18O record from the same stalagmite has rarely been reported, especially in north China. Here, we present precisely-dated high-resolution stalagmite δ13C and δ18O records for the past 130 ka (1 ka =1000 years) from Zhenzhu (ZZ) Cave in north China. On multi-millennial to orbital timescales, the δ13C and δ18O records exhibit a high degree of in-phase co-variation; however, there are differences in the trend and amplitude of change between various marine isotopic stages (MIS): specifically, MIS5e, MIS5c, MIS5a, MIS3 and MIS1. Modern monitoring results of two years from ZZ Cave, together with a comparison of the δ13C record from the cave with a pedogenic carbonate δ13C record from the western Chinese Loess Plateau (CLP), demonstrate that the δ13C record is a sensitive and reliable indicator of EASM rainfall amount. Considering that variations in both the amount and δ18O of precipitation can be modulated by the atmospheric circulation system, we conclude that the amplitude and trend of the stalagmite δ18O variations from north China are not an absolute indicator of EASM intensity, but rather an indicator of changes in the phase of the EASM. We suggest that stalagmite δ18O records combined with other unambiguous proxy indicators from stalagmites can provide a more comprehensive history of changes of the EASM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116149
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Apr 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (awards 41772373 , 41372181 and 41888101 ), the Hunan Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (award 2018JJ1017 ), the Construction Program for First-Class Disciplines (Geography) of Hunan Province, China , the U.S. NSF (grant 1702816 ) and the 111 program of China ( D19002 ). We greatly appreciate the valuable and constructive comments of the reviewers. We thank Dr. Jan. Bloemendal for improving the English language.


  • EASM
  • north China
  • past 130 ka
  • stalagmite
  • δC
  • δO

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