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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 10, issue 6
Clim. Past, 10, 2007–2052, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Clim. Past, 10, 2007–2052, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Review article 21 Nov 2014

Review article | 21 Nov 2014

The global monsoon across timescales: coherent variability of regional monsoons

P. X. Wang1, B. Wang2, H. Cheng3,4, J. Fasullo5, Z. T. Guo6, T. Kiefer7, and Z. Y. Liu8,9 P. X. Wang et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Mar. Geol., Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China
  • 2Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA
  • 3Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710049, China
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
  • 5CAS/NCAR, National Center for Atmospheric Research, 3090 Center Green Dr., Boulder, CO 80301, USA
  • 6Key Laboratory of Cenozoic Geology and Environment, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 9825, Beijing 100029, China
  • 7PAGES International Project Office, Zähringerstrasse 25, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 8Laboratory Climate, Ocean and Atmospheric Studies, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 9Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA

Abstract. Monsoon has earned increasing attention from the climate community since the last century, yet only recently have regional monsoons been recognized as a global system. It remains a debated issue, however, as to what extent and at which timescales the global monsoon can be viewed as a major mode of climate variability. For this purpose, a PAGES (Past Global Changes) working group (WG) was set up to investigate the concept of the global monsoon and its future research directions. The WG's synthesis is presented here. On the basis of observation and proxy data, the WG found that the regional monsoons can vary coherently, although not perfectly, at various timescales, varying between interannual, interdecadal, centennial, millennial, orbital and tectonic timescales, conforming to the global monsoon concept across timescales. Within the global monsoon system, each subsystem has its own features, depending on its geographic and topographic conditions. Discrimination between global and regional components in the monsoon system is a key to revealing the driving factors in monsoon variations; hence, the global monsoon concept helps to enhance our understanding and to improve future projections of the regional monsoons. This paper starts with a historical review of the global monsoon concept in both modern and paleo-climatology, and an assessment of monsoon proxies used in regional and global scales. The main body of the paper is devoted to a summary of observation data at various timescales, providing evidence of the coherent global monsoon system. The paper concludes with a projection of future monsoon shifts in a warming world. The synthesis will be followed by a companion paper addressing driving mechanisms and outstanding issues in global monsoon studies.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
All regional monsoons belong to a cohesive global monsoon circulation system, albeit thateach regional subsystem has its own indigenous features. A comprehensive review of global monsoon variability reveals that regional monsoons can vary coherently across a range of timescales, from interannual up to orbital and tectonic. Study of monsoon variability from both global and regional perspectives is imperative and advantageous for integrated understanding of the modern and paleo-monsoon dynamics.
All regional monsoons belong to a cohesive global monsoon circulation system, albeit thateach...