The Asian monsoon over the past 640,000 years and ice age terminations

Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Ashish Sinha, Christoph Spötl, Liang Yi, Shitao Chen, Megan Kelly, Gayatri Kathayat, Xianfeng Wang, Xianglei Li, Xinggong Kong, Yongjin Wang, Youfeng Ning, Haiwei Zhang

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960 Scopus citations


Oxygen isotope records from Chinese caves characterize changes in both the Asian monsoon and global climate. Here, using our new speleothem data, we extend the Chinese record to cover the full uranium/thorium dating range, that is, the past 640,000 years. The record's length and temporal precision allow us to test the idea that insolation changes caused by the Earth's precession drove the terminations of each of the last seven ice ages as well as the millennia-long intervals of reduced monsoon rainfall associated with each of the terminations. On the basis of our record's timing, the terminations are separated by four or five precession cycles, supporting the idea that the '100,000-year' ice age cycle is an average of discrete numbers of precession cycles. Furthermore, the suborbital component of monsoon rainfall variability exhibits power in both the precession and obliquity bands, and is nearly in anti-phase with summer boreal insolation. These observations indicate that insolation, in part, sets the pace of the occurrence of millennial-scale events, including those associated with terminations and 'unfinished terminations'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)640-646
Number of pages7
Issue number7609
StatePublished - Jun 29 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by China grants NBRP 2013CB955902, NSFC 41230524, 4157020432 and 41561144003, US NSF grants 0502535, 1103404, 0823554, 1003690, 1137693 and 1317693 and Singapore grant NRF-NRFF2011-08. We thank M. Siddall for help with analysis of the millennial-scale variability of the Antarctic temperature record and A. P. Roberts for converting the ice core chronology.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


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