We synthesize palaeoclimate records from the mid-latitude arid Asian region dominated today by the Westerlies (“arid central Asia” (ACA)) to evaluate spatial and temporal patterns of moisture changes during the Holocene. Sediment records from 11 lakes with reliable chronologies and robust proxies were selected to reconstruct moisture histories based on a five-class ordinal wetness index with assigned scores from the driest to wettest periods at individual sites for 200-year time slices. The proxies used in these records include pollen and diatom assemblages, sediment lithology, lake levels, and geochemistry (mainly isotope) data. The results of our synthesis show that ACA as a whole experienced synchronous and coherent moisture changes during the Holocene, namely a dry early Holocene, a wetter (less dry) early to mid-Holocene, and a moderately wet late Holocene. During the early Holocene most of the lakes experienced very low water levels and even dried out before ca 8 ka (1 ka=1000 cal a BP). Hence the effective-moisture history in ACA is out-of-phase with that in monsoonal Asia as documented by numerous palaeoclimate records. In monsoonal Asia, a strong summer monsoon and humid climate characterized the early Holocene, and a weakened summer monsoon and drier climate prevailed during the late Holocene, which were mainly controlled by changes in low-latitude summer insolation. In contrast, we propose that the pattern of Holocene effective-moisture evolution in the westerly dominated ACA was mainly determined by North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) and high-latitude air temperatures that affect the availability, amount and transport of water vapor. Also, topography of the Tibetan Plateau and adjacent Asian highlands could have contributed to the intensification of dry climate in ACA during the early Holocene, as a result of strengthening the subsidence of dry air masses, associated with stronger uplift motion on the plateau by intense heating under a stronger summer insolation. Summer insolation might have played a key role in directly controlling moisture conditions in ACA but only after the northern hemisphere ice-sheets had disappeared in the mid- and late Holocene.
Quaternary Science Reviews – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2008
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