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Evolution of Asian monsoons and phased uplift of the Himalaya–Tibetan plateau since Late Miocene times

Nature volume 411, pages 6266 (03 May 2001) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The climates of Asia are affected significantly by the extent and height of the Himalayan mountains and the Tibetan plateau1,2,3,4. Uplift of this region began about 50 Myr ago, and further significant increases in altitude of the Tibetan plateau are thought to have occurred about 10–8 Myr ago4,5, or more recently. However, the climatic consequences of this uplift remain unclear. Here we use records of aeolian sediments from China6,7 and marine sediments from the Indian8,9,10 and North Pacific oceans11 to identify three stages of evolution of Asian climates: first, enhanced aridity in the Asian interior and onset of the Indian and east Asian monsoons, about 9–8 Myr ago; next, continued intensification of the east Asian summer and winter monsoons, together with increased dust transport to the North Pacific Ocean11, about 3.6–2.6 Myr ago; and last, increased variability and possible weakening of the Indian and east Asian summer monsoons and continued strengthening of the east Asian winter monsoon since about 2.6 Myr ago. The results of a numerical climate-model experiment, using idealized stepwise increases of mountain–plateau elevation, support the argument that the stages in evolution of Asian monsoons are linked to phases of Himalaya–Tibetan plateau uplift and to Northern Hemisphere glaciation.

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Acknowledgements

The model simulations used climate models and computer resources provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. This work was supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Chinese National Science Foundation, and by grants to the University of Wisconsin and Brown University from the US National Science Foundation.

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Affiliations

  1. *State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Box 17, Xi’an 710054, China

    • An Zhisheng
  2. †Center for Climatic Research, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1225 W. Dayton Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

    • John E. Kutzbach
  3. ‡Geological Sciences, Box 1846, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912-1846, USA

    • Warren L. Prell
  4. §Quaternary Research Center, Box 351310, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

    • Stephen C. Porter

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Correspondence to John E. Kutzbach.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/35075035

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