Mid- to late Holocene Indian Ocean Monsoon variability recorded in four speleothems from Socotra Island, Yemen

Maïté Van Rampelbergh, Dominik Fleitmann, Sophie Verheyden, Hai Cheng, Lawrence Edwards, Peter De Geest, David De Vleeschouwer, Stephen J. Burns, Albert Matter, Philippe Claeys, Eddy Keppens

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Four stalagmites covering the last 7.0 ka were sampled on Socotra, an island in the northern Indian Ocean to investigate the evolution of the northeast Indian Ocean Monsoon (IOM) since the mid Holocene. On Socotra, rain is delivered at the start of the southwest IOM in May-June and at the start of the northeast IOM from September to December. The Haggeher Mountains act as a barrier forcing precipitation brought by the northeast winds to fall preferentially on the eastern side of the island, where the studied caves are located. δ18O and δ13C and Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca signals in the stalagmites reflect precipitation amounts brought by the northeast winds. For stalagmite STM6, this amount effect is amplified by kinetic effects during calcite deposition. Combined interpretation of the stalagmites' signals suggest a weakening of the northeast precipitation between 6.0 and 3.8 ka. After 3.8 ka precipitation intensities remain constant with two superimposed drier periods, between 0 and 0.6 ka and from 2.2 to 3.8 ka. No link can be established with Greenland ice cores and with the summer IOM variability.In contrast to the stable northeast rainy season suggested by the records in this study, speleothem records from western Socotra indicate a wettening of the southwest rainy season on Socotra after 4.4 ka. The local wettening of western Socotra could relate to a more southerly path (more over the Indian Ocean) taken by the southwest winds. Stalagmite STM5, sampled at the fringe between both rain areas displays intermediate δ18O values. After 6.2 ka, similar precipitation changes are seen between eastern Socotra and northern Oman indicating that both regions are affected similarly by the monsoon. Different palaeoclimatologic records from the Arabian Peninsula currently located outside the ITCZ migration pathway display an abrupt drying around 6 ka due to their disconnection from the southwest rain influence. Records that are nowadays still receiving rain by the southwest winds, suggest a more gradual drying reflecting the weakening of the southwest monsoon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Yemen Ministry of Water and Environment and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA – Socotra Branch), the members of the Socotra Karst Project and of the Friends of Socotra group for their help during the fieldwork. Maïté Van Rampelbergh also want to thank Mr. R. Van Dierendonck for his interest and support, Kay Van Damme for sharing his knowledge on Socotra's vegetation cover and Dirk Van Dorpe for providing additional information on the Hoq Cave dimensions. This work is support by the Hercules Foundation to Philippe Claeys, and Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) through project G-0422-10 to Philippe Claeys.


  • Indian Ocean Monsoon
  • Paleoclimate
  • Socotra
  • Speleothems
  • Stable isotopes
  • Trace elements


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