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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 2
Clim. Past, 12, 415–427, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Clim. Past, 12, 415–427, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 23 Feb 2016

Research article | 23 Feb 2016

Holocene Asian monsoon evolution revealed by a pollen record from an alpine lake on the southeastern margin of the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau, China

Enlou Zhang1, Yongbo Wang2, Weiwei Sun1,3, and Ji Shen1 Enlou Zhang et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China
  • 2College of Resource Environment and Tourism, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China
  • 3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Abstract. We present the results of pollen analyses from a 1105 cm long sediment core from Wuxu Lake in southwestern China, which depict the variations of the East Asian winter monsoon (EAWM) and the Indian summer monsoon (ISM) during the last 12.3 ka. During the period of 12.3 to 11.3 cal ka BP, the dominance of Betula forest and open alpine shrub and meadow around Wuxu Lake indicates a climate with relatively cold winters and dry summers, corresponding to the Younger Dryas event. Between 11.3 and 10.4 cal ka BP, further expansion of Betula forest and the retreat of alpine shrubs and meadows reflect a greater seasonality with cold winters and gradually increasing summer precipitation. From 10.4 to 4.9 cal ka BP, the dense forest understory, together with the gradual decrease in Betula forest and increase in Tsuga forest, suggest that the winters became warmer and summer precipitation was at a maximum, corresponding to the Holocene climatic optimum. Between 4.9 and 2.6 cal ka BP, Tsuga forest and alpine shrubs and meadows expanded significantly, reflecting relatively warm winters and decreased summer precipitation. Since 2.6 cal ka BP, reforestation around Wuxu Lake indicates a renewed humid period in the late Holocene; however, the vegetation in the catchment may also have been affected by grazing activity during this period. The results of our study are generally consistent with previous findings; however, the timing and duration of the Holocene climatic optimum from different records are inconsistent, reflecting real contrast in local rainfall response to the ISM. Overall, the EAWM is broadly in-phase with the ISM on the orbital timescale, and both monsoons exhibit a trend of decreasing strength from the early to late Holocene, reflecting the interplay of solar insolation receipt between the winter and summer seasons and El Niño–Southern Oscillation strength in the tropical Pacific.

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