East Asian hydroclimate modulated by the position of the westerlies during Termination I

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Science  02 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6414, pp. 580-583
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat9393

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East Asian monsoon mysteries

What exactly does the oxygen isotopic composition of speleothems tell us about the East Asian monsoon? They provide magnificent, detailed records of hydroclimate, but precisely what aspects of hydroclimate they record is unclear. Zhang et al. present data from two speleothems from central eastern China for the period from 21,000 to 10,000 years ago and suggest that the cause of the oxygen isotopic variability that they observe is more complex than simple changes in monsoon strength or intensity (see the Perspective by McGee). Alternatively, this variation may reflect the lengths of various phases of the monsoon and the regional heterogeneity of the East Asian hydroclimate.

Science, this issue p. 580; see also p. 518


Speleothem oxygen isotope records have revolutionized our understanding of the paleo East Asian monsoon, yet there is fundamental disagreement on what they represent in terms of the hydroclimate changes. We report a multiproxy speleothem record of monsoon evolution during the last deglaciation from the middle Yangtze region, which indicates a wetter central eastern China during North Atlantic cooling episodes, despite the oxygen isotopic record suggesting a weaker monsoon. We show that this apparent contradiction can be resolved if the changes are interpreted as a lengthening of the Meiyu rains and shortened post-Meiyu stage, in accordance with a recent hypothesis. Model simulations support this interpretation and further reveal the role of the westerlies in communicating the North Atlantic influence to the East Asian climate.

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