Research Article

A 550,000-year record of East Asian monsoon rainfall from 10Be in loess

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Science  25 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6391, pp. 877-881
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5825

Forcing the East Asian summer monsoon

What factors have controlled the intensity of the East Asian summer monsoon over the recent geological past? To answer this key question requires a robust proxy for rainfall amounts. Beck et al. measured the beryllium isotopic content of loess from China, from which they reconstructed a 550,000-year-long record of rainfall. Rainfall correlated with orbital precession and global variations in ice volume. This finding suggests that the monsoon is governed by low-latitude interhemispheric gradients in solar radiation levels, rather than by high-northern-latitude solar radiation levels as previously suggested.

Science, this issue p. 877


Cosmogenic 10Be flux from the atmosphere is a proxy for rainfall. Using this proxy, we derived a 550,000-year-long record of East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) rainfall from Chinese loess. This record is forced at orbital precession frequencies, with higher rainfall observed during Northern Hemisphere summer insolation maxima, although this response is damped during cold interstadials. The 10Be monsoon rainfall proxy is also highly correlated with global ice-volume variations, which differs from Chinese cave δ18O, which is only weakly correlated. We argue that both EASM intensity and Chinese cave δ18O are not governed by high-northern-latitude insolation, as suggested by others, but rather by low-latitude interhemispheric insolation gradients, which may also strongly influence global ice volume via monsoon dynamics.

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