Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
Research article
17 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 17 Feb 2015

Changes in East Asian summer monsoon precipitation during the Holocene deduced from a freshwater flux reconstruction of the Changjiang (Yangtze River) based on the oxygen isotope mass balance in the northern East China Sea

Y. Kubota, R. Tada, and K. Kimoto

Abstract. The δ18O of seawater (δ18Ow), an indirect indicator of sea surface salinity (SSS), in the northern East China Sea (ECS) is reconstructed for the Holocene using paired analyses of Mg / Ca ratio and δ18O of planktic foraminiferal tests. According to modern observation, interannual variations in SSS during summer in the northern ECS are mainly controlled by the Changjiang (Yangtze River) discharge, which reflects summer rainfall in its drainage basin. Thus, changes in the summer SSS in the northern ECS are interpreted as reflecting variations in the East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) precipitation in the Changjiang Basin. This interpretation is confirmed by a strong relationship between the SSS in the northern ECS and the Changjiang discharge during the wet season (May–October) based on instrumental salinity records from 1951 to 2000. However, it is difficult to estimate absolute salinity values in the past with high accuracy, because the past salinity–δ18Ow regression slope, end member salinity, and δ18Ow values are not well understood. Here, we conduct δ18Ow mass-balance calculation to estimate the freshwater contribution to the surface water of the northern ECS during the last 7 kyr by assuming a simple mixing between two end members – the seawater and the Changjiang freshwater. The result indicates that there has been no gradual decreasing secular trend in the Changjiang freshwater flux from the middle Holocene to the present day, suggesting that summer insolation in the Northern Hemisphere does not regulate the EASM precipitation in the Changjiang Basin. Instead, internal feedback appears to have been more important during the Holocene. The absence of a decreasing trend in regional summer precipitation over the Changjiang Basin since the middle Holocene is contradictory to Chinese speleothems' δ18O records, suggesting that it is not possible to explain orbital changes in Chinese speleothems' δ18O during the Holocene by changes in summer precipitation, but that such changes are related to other factors such as changes in the moisture source.