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Abrupt changes in the Asian southwest monsoon during the Holocene and their links to the North Atlantic Ocean


During the last ice age, the Indian Ocean southwest monsoon exhibited abrupt changes that were closely correlated with millennial-scale climate events in the North Atlantic region1,2,3, suggesting a mechanistic link. In the Holocene epoch, which had a more stable climate, the amplitude of abrupt changes in North Atlantic climate was much smaller, and it has been unclear whether these changes are related to monsoon variability. Here we present a continuous record of centennial-scale monsoon variability throughout the Holocene from rapidly accumulating and minimally bioturbated sediments in the anoxic Arabian Sea. Our monsoon proxy record reveals several intervals of weak summer monsoon that coincide with cold periods documented in the North Atlantic region4—including the most recent climate changes from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age and then to the present. We therefore suggest that the link between North Atlantic climate and the Asian monsoon is a persistent aspect of global climate.

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Figure 1: July sea-level pressure (mbar, thin contours), wind direction27, cooling of the Arabian Sea due to upwelling28, and precipitation over Asia29 (mm month-1, thick contours).
Figure 2: Southwest monsoon proxy record from the Arabian Sea Site 723A and box core RC2730 combined with Oman cave stalagmite δ18O and North Atlantic haematite percentage.
Figure 3: Southwest monsoon proxy record from the Arabian Sea Site 723A and box core RC2730 combined with North Atlantic percentage Cassidulina teretis, haematite and SST.


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A.K.G. thanks the US National Research Council for a senior research fellowship. J.T.O. thanks the US NSF Earth System History Program for supporting acquisition of AMS dates. We thank the Ocean Drilling Program for providing core samples.

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Correspondence to Anil K. Gupta.

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Gupta, A., Anderson, D. & Overpeck, J. Abrupt changes in the Asian southwest monsoon during the Holocene and their links to the North Atlantic Ocean. Nature 421, 354–357 (2003).

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