Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Research article
11 Oct 2012
Research article |  | 11 Oct 2012

Isotopic and lithologic variations of one precisely-dated stalagmite across the Medieval/LIA period from Heilong Cave, central China

Y. F. Cui, Y. J. Wang, H. Cheng, K. Zhao, and X. G. Kong

Abstract. Lithologic and isotopic changes of one stalagmite (224 mm in length) from Heilong Cave, Central China, are investigated here in order to explore multiple proxies of monsoon climate. High uranium concentrations (6–10 ppm) ensure Th-230 dates precisely and resultant chronology ranges from ~790 to 1780 AD across the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) to Little Ice Age (LIA). Annually resolved oxygen and carbon isotopic data, gray level and elemental Sr are highly related to macroscopic lithologic changes. A lamination sequence is composed of alternations of white-porous and dark-compact calcite clearly discerned on the polished surface. The dark-compact laminae have low values of gray level, high Sr and δ13C values, indicating periods of low growth rate under dry climate conditions, and vice versa for the white-porous laminae. This suggests that changes in hydrology, matter input of drip water and crystallization process were controlled by cave environments and climates. The alternation of dry and wet periods with a significant periodicity of ~90 yr, as indicated by spectral analyses of the multiple proxies, is further supported by a reconstructed precipitation index from historical documents and instrumental data extending back to 1470 AD. A strong coherence between monsoon proxy of calcite δ18O and the other proxies was observed during the LIA but not during the MWP. This is likely due to changes in atmospheric circulation pattern at the boundary of MWP/LIA. When the Intertropical Convergence Zone shifted southward during the LIA, summer monsoon precipitation at the cave site was probably dominated by the Mei-Yu, resulting in water vapor mainly originated from adjacent oceanic sources.