Role of Asian summer monsoon subsystems in the inter-hemispheric progression of deglaciation


The responses of Asian monsoon subsystems to both hemispheric climate forcing and external orbital forcing are currently issues of vigorous debate. The Indian summer monsoon is the dominant monsoon subsystem in terms of energy flux, constituting one of Earth’s most dynamic expressions of ocean–atmosphere interactions. Yet, the Indian summer monsoon is grossly under-represented in Asian monsoon palaeoclimate records. Here, we present high-resolution records of Indian summer monsoon-induced rainfall and fluvial runoff recovered in a sediment core from the Bay of Bengal across Termination II, 139–127 thousand years ago, including coupled measurements of the oxygen isotopic composition and Mg/Ca, Mn/Ca, Nd/Ca and U/Ca ratios in surface-ocean-dwelling foraminifera. Our data reveal a millennial-scale transient strengthening of the Asian monsoon that punctuates Termination II associated with an oscillation of the bipolar seesaw. The progression of deglacial warming across Termination II emerges first in the Southern Hemisphere, then the tropics in tandem with Indian summer monsoon strengthening, and finally the Northern Hemisphere. We therefore suggest that the Indian summer monsoon was a conduit for conveying Southern Hemisphere latent heat northwards, thereby promoting subsequent Northern Hemisphere deglaciation.

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Fig. 1: ISM-induced freshening in the Bay of Bengal.
Fig. 2: Sequences of global events.
Fig. 3: TII onset and duration.

Data availability

Data generated from this study (IODP Expedition 353; Site U1446) are available via the National Geoscience Data Centre ( Antarctic EDC ice core records presented on AICC2012 chronology are available from and The EASM composite speleothem δ18O record is available from The Bittoo Cave speleothem δ18O record is available from ODP 983 and 1063 data are available as a supplementary dataset associated with ref. 54. ODP 976 western Mediterranean Sea SST data on Corchia radiometrically constrained chronology are available as a supplementary dataset associated with ref. 27. Data on benthic δ18O levels of sediment core PS75/059-2 are available at Data from sediment core PS75/059-2 on AICC2012 chronology are available at


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We thank P. Webb for help setting up the pXRF analysis, H. Sloane for help with the stable isotope analysis, and P. D. Naidu for providing the 2005 NBBT-05-S sediment traps. P.A. would like to express gratitude to Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India, for drilling permissions for Expedition 353 and UK-IODP for funding support. P.A. would also like to thank Expedition 353 shipboard scientists for their efforts and Kochi Core Repository, Japan, for sampling support. SMAP salinity data are produced by Remote Sensing Systems and sponsored by the NASA Ocean Salinity Science Team. P.A. and K.N.-K. acknowledge funding through a NERC PhD grant (NE/L002493/1) associated with the CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership. Samples were provided by the IODP. Stable isotope analysis of planktic foraminifera was funded by NIGFSC grant IP-1649-1116 to P.A.

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P.A. conceived the research idea and further developed it with K.N.-K. K.N.-K. processed samples, picked foraminifera, and conducted foraminifera cleaning and trace element analysis under guidance from P.A. and S.M. M.J.L. oversaw the stable isotope analysis. S.J.H. helped with trace element analysis. S.C.C. produced benthic oxygen isotope data for age model development. K.N.-K., P.A. and P.F.S. discussed data interpretation and wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the final text.

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Correspondence to K. Nilsson-Kerr or P. Anand.

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Nilsson-Kerr, K., Anand, P., Sexton, P.F. et al. Role of Asian summer monsoon subsystems in the inter-hemispheric progression of deglaciation. Nat. Geosci. 12, 290–295 (2019).

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