Northward extent of East Asian monsoon covaries with intensity on orbital and millennial timescales

Yonaton Goldsmith, Wallace S. Broecker, Hai Xu, Pratigya J. Polissar, Peter B. DeMenocal, Naomi Porat, Jianghu Lan, Peng Cheng, Weijian Zhou, Zhisheng An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Scopus citations


The magnitude, rate, and extent of past and future East Asian monsoon (EAM) rainfall fluctuations remain unresolved. Here, late Pleistocene-Holocene EAM rainfall intensity is reconstructed using a well-dated northeastern China closed-basin lake area record located at the modern northwestern fringe of the EAM. The EAM intensity and northern extent alternated rapidly between wet and dry periods on time scales of centuries. Lake levels were 60 m higher than present during the early and middle Holocene, requiring a twofold increase in annual rainfall, which, based on modern rainfall distribution, requires a ∼400 km northward expansion/migration of the EAM. The lake record is highly correlated with both northern and southern Chinese cave deposit isotope records, supporting rainfall "intensity based" interpretations of these deposits as opposed to an alternative "water vapor sourcing" interpretation. These results indicate that EAM intensity and the northward extent covary on orbital and millennial timescales. The termination of wet conditions at 5.5 ka BP (∼35 m lake drop) triggered a large cultural collapse of Early Neolithic cultures in north China, and possibly promoted the emergence of complex societies of the Late Neolithic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1817-1821
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - 21 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


We thank G. Shelach-Lavi for his advice regarding the archaeology of China. We thank E. Sheng and T. Liu for their great help in the field. We thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers whose comments improved the paper. This work was supported by a Gary Comer Science and Education Foundation grant to Y.G. and P.J.P.; Columbia's Center for Climate and Life; the National Basic Research Program of China Grant 2013CB955900; the External Cooperation Program of Bureau of International Cooperation, Chinese Academy of Sciences Grant 132B61KYSB20130003; and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Contribution no. 8084.

FundersFunder number
External Cooperation Program of Bureau of International Cooperation
Comer Science and Education Foundation
Chinese Academy of Sciences132B61KYSB20130003, 8084
National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program)2013CB955900


    • Chinese cave record
    • Closed-basin lake
    • East Asian monsoon
    • Northward expansion
    • Paleo-rainfall


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