A synthesis of abrupt changes in the Asian summer monsoon since the last deglaciation

Carrie Morrill, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Julia E. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

297 Scopus citations


We have compiled 36 previously published palaeoclimate records to determine the timing and spatial pattern of century-scale abrupt changes in Asian monsoon precipitation since the last deglaciation. We identify abrupt events from (1) the interpretations of the authors of these records and (2) the more objective moving t-test calculation. Our results indicate that abrupt climatic changes occurred at ∼11.5 cal. ka, ∼4.5-5.0 cal. ka and AD 1300. At the start of the Holocene (∼11.5 cal. ka), Asian monsoon precipitation increased dramatically. This climatic change is synchronous with an abrupt warming in the North Atlantic. During the middle Holocene, there was a time of preferred and widespread weakening in monsoon strength (∼4.5-5.0 cal. ka). This result contradicts previous notions of either a gradual trend towards drier conditions or a series of abrupt events that occurred in an unorganized fashion across space and time. The middle-Holocene abrupt event could have been synchronous with an abrupt cooling event in the North Atlantic, as well as a warming and intensification of internannual variability in the tropical Pacific. In contrast to previous periods, precipitation changes at AD 1300 have a heterogeneous spatial pattern. We find no conclusive evidence for a change in the Asian monsoon at ∼8.2 cal. ka, as suggested by several previous studies. More high-resolution data may be needed to observe this short-lived event. Overall, our results attest to the potential for rapid and major shifts in Asian monsoon precipitation that may be triggered by variations in other components of the climatic system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-476
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Abrupt climatic events
  • Asia
  • Climatic change
  • Environmental change
  • Holocene
  • Palaeoclimate
  • Precipitation
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


Dive into the research topics of 'A synthesis of abrupt changes in the Asian summer monsoon since the last deglaciation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this