In DepthClimate Science

Chasing South America's monsoon

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Science  28 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6213, pp. 1042-1043
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6213.1042

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Summary

When delegates from nearly 200 nations gather in Lima next week to begin laying the groundwork for a new international accord to curb global warming, few may realize that they've stepped into the middle of a climate mystery. In the late 1990s, researchers realized that tropical South America's summer rainy season is driven by a complex monsoon system that affects a large swath of the continent, stretching from western Peru and northern Argentina across Amazonia to Brazil's east coast. With the help of paleoclimate records like lake sediments, scientists are beginning to unravel the history and dynamics of the South American monsoon, even as they struggle to forecast how climate change may transform it.