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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  13 Jul 2020

13 Jul 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

A data-model approach to interpreting speleothem oxygen isotope records from monsoon regions on orbital timescales

Sarah E. Parker1, Sandy P. Harrison1, Laia Comas-Bru1, Nikita Kaushal2, Allegra N. LeGrande3, and Martin Werner4 Sarah E. Parker et al.
  • 1School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, Reading University, Reading, UK
  • 2Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • 3NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University, New York, USA
  • 4Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany

Abstract. Reconstruction of past changes in monsoon climate from speleothem oxygen isotope (δ18O) records is complex because δ18O signals can be influenced by multiple factors including changes in precipitation, precipitation recycling over land, temperature at the moisture source and changes in the moisture source region and transport pathway. Here, we analyse > 150 speleothem records from version 2 of the Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and Analysis (SISAL) database to produce composite regional trends in δ18O in monsoon regions; compositing minimises the influence of site-specific karst and cave processes that can influence individual site records. We compare speleothem δ18O observations with isotope-enabled climate model simulations to investigate the specific climatic factors causing these regional trends. We focus on differences in δ18O signals between interglacial (mid-Holocene and Last Interglacial) and glacial (Last Glacial Maximum) states, and on δ18O evolution through the Holocene. Differences in speleothem δ18O between the mid-Holocene and Last Interglacial in the East Asian and Indian monsoons are small, despite the larger summer insolation values during the Last Interglacial. Last Glacial Maximum δ18O values are significantly less negative than interglacial values. Comparison with simulated glacial-interglacial δ18O shows that changes are principally driven by global shifts in temperature and regional precipitation. Holocene speleothem δ18O records show distinct and coherent regional trends. Trends are similar to summer insolation in India, China and southwestern South America, but different in the Indonesian-Australian region. Redundancy analysis shows that 37 % of Holocene variability can be accounted for by latitude and longitude, supporting the differentiation of records into individual monsoon regions. Regression analysis of simulated precipitation δ18O and climate variables show that global Holocene monsoon δ18O trends are driven by changes in precipitation, atmospheric circulation and (to a lesser extent) source area temperature, whilst precipitation recycling is non-significant. However, there are differences in regional scale mechanisms; there are clear relationships between changes in precipitation and in δ18O for India, southwestern South America and the Indonesian-Australian regions, but not for the East Asian monsoon. Changes in atmospheric circulation contributes to δ18O trends in the East Asian, Indian and Indonesian-Australian monsoons, and a weak source area temperature effect is observed over southern and central America and Asia. Precipitation recycling is influential in southwestern South America and southern Africa. Overall, our analyses show that it is possible to differentiate the impacts of specific climatic mechanisms influencing precipitation δ18O and use this analysis to interpret changes in speleothem δ18O.

Sarah E. Parker et al.

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Sarah E. Parker et al.

Sarah E. Parker et al.


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Latest update: 28 Oct 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Regional trends in the oxygen isotope (δ18O) composition of stalagmites reflect several climate processes. We compare stalagmite δ18O records from monsoon regions and model simulations to identify the causes of δ18O variability over the last 12,000 years, and between glacial and interglacial states. Precipitation changes explain the glacial-interglacial δ18O changes in all monsoon regions; Holocene trends are due to a combination of precipitation, atmospheric circulation and temperature changes.
Regional trends in the oxygen isotope (δ18O) composition of stalagmites reflect several climate...