Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
Research article
24 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 24 Feb 2015

Variability of summer humidity during the past 800 years on the eastern Tibetan Plateau inferred from δ18O of tree-ring cellulose

J. Wernicke, J. Grießinger, P. Hochreuther, and A. Bräuning

Abstract. We present an 800-year δ18O chronology from the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau (TP). The chronology dates back to AD 1193 and was sampled in AD 1996 from living Juniperus tibetica trees. This first long-term tree-ring-based δ18O chronology for eastern Tibet provides a reliable archive for hydroclimatic reconstructions. Highly significant correlations were obtained with hydroclimatic variables (relative humidity, vapour pressure, and precipitation) during the summer season. We applied a linear transfer model to reconstruct summer season relative humidity variations over the past 800 years. More moist conditions prevailed during the termination of the Medieval Warm Period while a systematic shift during the Little Ice Age is not detectable. A distinct trend towards more dry conditions since the 1870s is apparent. The moisture decline weakened around the 1950s but still shows a negative trend. The mid-19th century humidity decrease is in good accordance with several multiproxy hydroclimate reconstructions for south Tibet. However, the pronounced summer relative humidity decline is stronger on the central and eastern TP. Furthermore, the relative humidity at our study site is significantly linked to the relative humidity at large parts of the TP. Therefore, we deduce that the reconstructed relative humidity is mostly controlled by local and mesoscale climatic drivers, although significant connections to the higher troposphere of west-central Asia were observed.