The drivers of the evolution of the South Asian Monsoon remain widely debated. An intensification of monsoonal rainfall recorded in terrestrial and marine sediment archives from the earliest Miocene (23–20 million years ago (Ma)) is generally attributed to Himalayan uplift. However, Indian Ocean palaeorecords place the onset of a strong monsoon around 13 Ma, linked to strengthening of the southwesterly winds of the Somali Jet that also force Arabian Sea upwelling. Here we reconcile these divergent records using Earth system model simulations to evaluate the interactions between palaeogeography and ocean–atmosphere dynamics. We show that factors forcing the South Asian Monsoon circulation versus rainfall are decoupled and diachronous. Himalayan and Tibetan Plateau topography predominantly controlled early Miocene rainfall patterns, with limited impact on ocean–atmosphere circulation. The uplift of the East African and Middle Eastern topography played a pivotal role in the establishment of the modern Somali Jet structure above the western Indian Ocean, while strong upwelling initiated as a direct consequence of the emergence of the Arabian Peninsula and the onset of modern-like atmospheric circulation. Our results emphasize that although elevated rainfall seasonality was probably a persistent feature since the India–Asia collision in the Paleogene, modern-like monsoonal atmospheric circulation only emerged in the late Neogene.
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All model outputs used in this study are available as a NetCDF via Zenodo at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5727042 (ref. 84). The EM palaeogeographic reconstructions38 are also available on the Paleoenvironment map website (https://map.paleoenvironment.eu). The repository also contains palaeogeography grids used for the simulations.
LMDZ, XIOS, NEMO and ORCHIDEE are released under the terms of the CeCILL license. OASIS-MCT is released under the terms of the Lesser GNU General Public License (LGPL). IPSL-CM5A2 source code is publicly available through svn, with the following commands line: svn co http://forge.ipsl.jussieu.fr/igcmg/svn/modipsl/branches/publications/IPSLCM5A2.1_11192019; cd modipsl/util; ./model IPSLCM5A2.1. The mod.def file provides information regarding the different revisions used, namely: NEMOGCM branch nemo_v3_6_STABLE revision 6665; XIOS2 branchs/xios-2.5 revision 1763; IOIPSL/src svn tags/v2_2_2; LMDZ5 branches/IPSLCM5A2.1 rev 3591; branches/publications/ORCHIDEE_IPSLCM5A2.1.r5307 rev 6336; OASIS3-MCT 2.0_branch (rev 4775 IPSL server). The login/password combination requested at first use to download the ORCHIDEE component is anonymous/anonymous. We recommend that you refer to the project website (http://forge.ipsl.jussieu.fr/igcmg_doc/wiki/Doc/Config/IPSLCM5A2) to install and compile the environment correctly. Adaptations of the PISCES model used in the study are archived in Zenodo at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5727042, along with information on how to include the updates in the reference code of PISCES. Analysis and graphics from this paper have been produced using open-source tools. PyFerret is a product of the NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (information is available at http://ferret.pmel.noaa.gov/Ferret/). Information on NCL85 is available at https://www.ncl.ucar.edu. Information on the Generic Mapping Tool86 is available at https://www.generic-mapping-tools.org.
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We thank the CEA/CCRT for providing access to the HPC resources of TGCC under allocation numbers 2018-A0030102212, 2019-A0050102212 and 2020-A0090102212 made by GENCI and the French ANR project AMOR (ANR-16-CE31-0020) (Y.D.) for providing funding for this work. Coloured figures in this Article were made with perceptually uniform, colour-vision-deficiency-friendly scientific colour maps, developed and distributed by F. Crameri83 (https://www.fabiocrameri.ch/colourmaps/). We thank C. Ethé, L. Bopp and O. Aumont for technical help with adapting PISCES for deep-time configurations.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Extended Data Fig. 1 Paleogeographic reconstruction used in the reference simulations.
a) late Miocene (LM) and b) early Miocene (EM) simulations. Initial bathymetry is more detailed in LM than in EM paleogeography, but the model resolution (2° by 2°) mitigates the difference by smoothing small variations.
Extended Data Fig. 2 Simulation equilibrium and zonal mean temperature gradient.
a) Global ocean temperature evolution at the sea surface, in intermediate (1,000 m) and deep waters (4,000 m) for late Miocene (LM) and early Miocene (EM) simulations, and sensitivity experiments. Zonal mean SST gradient for EM (b) and LM (c) simulations compared to available proxy estimation. Bold line indicates mean annual SST, dashed line depicts minimum and maximum value for each latitude. Temperature reconstruction are from ref. 47, based on compilation by ref. 87 and additional information on the compilation can be found in ref. 47.
Extended Data Fig. 3 Western Indian ocean response to Miocene paleogeographic evolution.
Top: Sea surface temperatures (°C) averaged over boreal summer (JAS); Bottom: Mixed layer depth average during boreal summer (JAS). (a)(d) late Miocene (LM) and (b)(e) early Miocene (EM) and (c)(f) LM-NoEAP simulations (See Extended Data Table 1 and Extended Data Fig. 4). LM-NoEAP is a simulation without the Eastern Arabian Peninsula (EAP), designed to show the influence of Arabian Peninsula immersion on the Somali Jet structure in a LM configuration.
Extended Data Fig. 4 Paleogeographic changes used in the sensitivity experiments.
Paleogeography surrounding the Indian Ocean in a) the late Miocene (LM) and e) the early Miocene (EM) simulations. Change in paleogeography between sensitivity experiments and the reference simulation (LM and EM); b) LM-NoAIO (change in Anatolia-Iran orogen (AIO) topography); c) LM-NoEAP (Change in Arabian Peninsula (EAP) land extension) d) LM-NoEAHR (Change in East African Highland (EAH) topography on LM configuration); f) EM-EAH (Change in East African Highland topography on EM configuration); g) EM-HTP (Change in Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau (HTP) topography) and g) EM-Him (Higher than present-day Himalaya). Contours are drawn every 250 meters for EM and LM simulations and every 500 meters for each sensitivity experiment.
Extended Data Fig. 5 Somali Jet response to changes in regional paleogeography.
Low level winds (850 hPa) during boreal summer (JJA) for a) late Miocene (LM) with low CO2 (LM-CO2); b) LM with Expanded Antarctic Ice Sheet (LM-AIS); c) LM with half present-day Anatolia-Iran topography (LM-NoAIO); d) LM with reduced topography in East African Highlands (LM-noEAHR); e) EM with uplifted East African Highlands (EM-EAH); f) EM with fully uplifted HTP region (EM-HTP) and g) EM with higher than present-day Himalaya orography (EM-Him).
Extended Data Fig. 6 Sea level pressure response to Middle Eastern physiographic changes.
Mean summer (JJA) sea level pressure (hPa) for a) late Miocene (LM) with partly submerged Eastern Arabian Peninsula (LM-NoEAP) and b) late Miocene baseline simulation.
Extended Data Fig. 7 Mean summer precipitation response to change in regional physiography.
a) late Miocene (LM), b) LM with half present-day Anatolia-Iran topography (LM-AIO), c) LM with partly submerged Eastern Arabian Peninsula (LM-NoEAP) and reduced topography in the Anatolia-Iran region, d) early Miocene, e) EM with fully uplifted HTP region (EM-HTP), f) EM with higher than present-day Himalaya orography (EM-Him). Dashed square indicates the area over which inland precipitation seasonality index (Main text, Fig. 4) is computed.
Extended Data Fig. 8 Seasonal cycle of precipitation.
Precipitation is averaged over [65◦E-85◦E, 0–35◦N]. a) Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) data88 and preindustrial simulation25 (Model), b) Low elevation areas (0–1,000 m) and c) high altitude areas (above 1000 m) for early Miocene (EM) and late Miocene (LM) simulations and sensitivity experiments.
Extended Data Fig. 9 Moisture transport response to change in regional physiography.
Late summer vertically integrated moisture transport (JJA) a) late Miocene (LM); b) LM-NoAIO; c) LM-NoEAP, d) early Miocene (EM). Change in vertically integrated moisture transport (JJA) in response to e) change in Anatolia-Iran topography (LM-NoAIO vs. LM); f) emersion of the Eastern Arabian Peninsula (LM-NoEAP vs. LM-NoAIO) and g) paleogeographic evolution between the early and the late Miocene (LM vs. EM).
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Sarr, AC., Donnadieu, Y., Bolton, C.T. et al. Neogene South Asian monsoon rainfall and wind histories diverged due to topographic effects. Nat. Geosci. 15, 314–319 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-00919-0
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