Palaeoclimatic insights into forcing and response of monsoon rainfall


Monsoons are the dominant seasonal mode of climate variability in the tropics and are critically important conveyors of atmospheric moisture and energy at a global scale. Predicting monsoons, which have profound impacts on regions that are collectively home to more than 70 per cent of Earth’s population, is a challenge that is difficult to overcome by relying on instrumental data from only the past few decades. Palaeoclimatic evidence of monsoon rainfall dynamics across different regions and timescales could help us to understand and predict the sensitivity and response of monsoons to various forcing mechanisms. This evidence suggests that monsoon systems exhibit substantial regional character.

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Figure 1: Global monsoon domain (coloured regions) as defined by the seasonality (summer–winter difference) in rainfall.
Figure 2: Basic components of a summer monsoon and its driving forces.
Figure 3: Effects of obliquity and precession on tropical rainfall.
Figure 4: Monsoon variability at different timescales as evidenced by δ18O of cave stalagmites.
Figure 5: Monsoon rainfall anomalies during Heinrich stadial 1.


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We are grateful to J. H. C. Bosmans for providing Fig. 3. We thank F. He, Z. Liu and B. Otto-Bliesner for making the TraCE-21k model output available via the Earth System Grid (National Center for Atmospheric Research). This study is supported by the DFG Research Centre/Cluster of Excellence ‘The Ocean in the Earth System’ and the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) grants 03G0228A (EISPAC), 03G0828A (TransGeoBiOc) and 03G0484A (INVERS).

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All authors determined the scope and wrote the paper, and contributed to interpretation and discussion of the results.

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Correspondence to Mahyar Mohtadi.

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Mohtadi, M., Prange, M. & Steinke, S. Palaeoclimatic insights into forcing and response of monsoon rainfall. Nature 533, 191–199 (2016).

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