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The Asian monsoon over the past 640,000 years and ice age terminations

Nature volume 534, pages 640646 (30 June 2016) | Download Citation

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 23 November 2016

Abstract

Oxygen isotope records from Chinese caves characterize changes in both the Asian monsoon and global climate. Here, using our new speleothem data, we extend the Chinese record to cover the full uranium/thorium dating range, that is, the past 640,000 years. The record’s length and temporal precision allow us to test the idea that insolation changes caused by the Earth’s precession drove the terminations of each of the last seven ice ages as well as the millennia-long intervals of reduced monsoon rainfall associated with each of the terminations. On the basis of our record’s timing, the terminations are separated by four or five precession cycles, supporting the idea that the ‘100,000-year’ ice age cycle is an average of discrete numbers of precession cycles. Furthermore, the suborbital component of monsoon rainfall variability exhibits power in both the precession and obliquity bands, and is nearly in anti-phase with summer boreal insolation. These observations indicate that insolation, in part, sets the pace of the occurrence of millennial-scale events, including those associated with terminations and ‘unfinished terminations’.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by China grants NBRP 2013CB955902, NSFC 41230524, 4157020432 and 41561144003, US NSF grants 0502535, 1103404, 0823554, 1003690, 1137693 and 1317693 and Singapore grant NRF-NRFF2011-08. We thank M. Siddall for help with analysis of the millennial-scale variability of the Antarctic temperature record and A. P. Roberts for converting the ice core chronology.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China

    • Hai Cheng
    • , Gayatri Kathayat
    • , Xianglei Li
    • , Youfeng Ning
    •  & Haiwei Zhang
  2. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA

    • Hai Cheng
    • , R. Lawrence Edwards
    •  & Megan Kelly
  3. Department of Earth Sciences, California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, California 90747, USA

    • Ashish Sinha
  4. Institut für Geologie, Universität Innsbruck, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria

    • Christoph Spötl
  5. State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China

    • Liang Yi
  6. College of Geography Science, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023, China

    • Shitao Chen
    • , Xinggong Kong
    •  & Yongjin Wang
  7. Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, 639798 Singapore

    • Xianfeng Wang

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Contributions

H.C. designed the research and experiments; H.C., R.L.E. and A.S. wrote the manuscript, which was edited by all of the co-authors; L.Y., S.C. and A.S. did the spectral analysis; X.K., Y.W. and S.C. provided the cave samples; H.C. did the 230Th dating work; and C.S., X.K., M.K., Y.N. and H.Z. contributed to oxygen isotope measurements. All authors discussed the results and provided input to the manuscript and technical aspects of the laboratory analyses.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hai Cheng or R. Lawrence Edwards.

Reviewer Information

Nature thanks C. Buizert, A. N. Meckler and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Extended data

Supplementary information

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Table 1

    This file contains 230Th dating results and δ18O time series for five stalagmites, SB-12, SB-14, SB-32, SB-58, and D8, as well as the composite AM δ18O record and detrended AM record (Δδ18O).

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature18591

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