Orbital- and millennial-scale Asian winter monsoon variability across the Pliocene-Pleistocene glacial intensification

Nat Commun. 2024 Apr 19;15(1):3364. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-47274-9.


Intensification of northern hemisphere glaciation (iNHG), ~2.7 million years ago (Ma), led to establishment of the Pleistocene to present-day bipolar icehouse state. Here we document evolution of orbital- and millennial-scale Asian winter monsoon (AWM) variability across the iNHG using a palaeomagnetically dated centennial-resolution grain size record between 3.6 and 1.9 Ma from a previously undescribed loess-palaeosol/red clay section on the central Chinese Loess Plateau. We find that the late Pliocene-early Pleistocene AWM was characterized by combined 41-kyr and ~100-kyr cycles, in response to ice volume and atmospheric CO2 forcing. Northern hemisphere ice sheet expansion, which was accompanied by an atmospheric CO2 concentration decline, substantially increased glacial AWM intensity and its orbitally oscillating amplitudes across the iNHG. Superposed on orbital variability, we find that millennial AWM intensity fluctuations persisted during both the warmer (higher-CO2) late Pliocene and colder (lower-CO2) early Pleistocene, in response to both external astronomical forcing and internal climate dynamics.