Dominant precessional forcing of the East Asian summer monsoon since 260 ka

Benhong Guo, Junsheng Nie*, Thomas Stevens, Jan Pieter Buylaert, Tingjiang Peng, Wenjiao Xiao, Baotian Pan, Xiaomin Fang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


One of the most perplexing problems in paleoclimate research is how orbital cyclicities force East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) precipitation variation over the middle to late Quaternary. Chinese loess records suggest that EASM precipitation was dominated by 100 k.y. cycles controlled by Northern Hemisphere ice sheet forcing. In contrast, speleothem records suggest that EASM precipitation was dominated by 23 k.y. cycles caused by Northern Hemisphere summer insolation forcing. In order to resolve this inconsistency, we present high-resolution paleoclimate records from Xijin drill cores on the western Chinese Loess Plateau for the past 260 k.y., the rough upper limit of luminescence dating. Magnetic susceptibility (χ) shows clear 23 k.y. precessional cycles over interglacials but has constant low values over glacials. This is interpreted as indicating a lack of pedogenesis, such that χ cannot record EASM precipitation variations, rather than an absence of EASM variation itself. To circumvent this issue, we use inversed sand content as an alternative proxy for EASM precipitation over glacials and splice this with the interglacial logarithmic χ from Xijin drill cores. This new record reveals dominant 23 k.y. cycles over both interglacials and glacials, consistent with speleothem δ18O data and dominant insolation forcing. These findings allow a consistent understanding of EASM variability and forcing mechanisms from both loess and speleothem archives, resolving one of the largest debates in past monsoon research. These results challenge suggestions of high-latitude ice sheet forcing of the EASM based on slowly accumulated loess records from the central Loess Plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1372-1376
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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