Transition from a warm and dry to a cold and wet climate in NE China across the Holocene

Yanhong Zheng*, Rich Pancost, David Naafs, Qiyuan Li, Zhao Liu, Huan Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)
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Northeast (NE) China lies in the northernmost part of the East Asian Summer monsoon (EASM) region. Although a series of Holocene climatic records have been obtained from lakes and peats in this region, the Holocene hydrological history and its controls remain unclear. More specifically, it is currently debated whether NE China experienced a dry or wet climate during the early Holocene. Here we reconstruct changes in mean annual air temperature and peat soil moisture across the last ∼13,000 year BP using samples from the Gushantun and Hani peat, located in NE China. Our approach is based on the distribution of bacterial branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) and the abundance of the archaeal isoprenoidal (iso)GDGT crenarchaeol. Using the recently developed peat-specific MAATpeat temperature calibration we find that NE China experienced a relatively warm early Holocene (∼5–7 °C warmer than today), followed by a cooling trend towards modern-day values during the mid- and late Holocene. Moreover, crenarchaeol concentrations, brGDGT-based pH values, and the distribution of 6-methyl brGDGTs, all indicate an increase in soil moisture content from the early to late Holocene in both peats, which is largely consistent with other data from NE China. This trend towards increasing soil moisture/wetter conditions across the Holocene in NE China records contrasts with the trends observed in other parts of the EASM region, which exhibit an early and/or mid-Holocene moisture/precipitation maximum. However, the Holocene soil moisture variations and temperature–moisture relationships (warm–dry and cold–wet) observed in NE China are similar to those observed in the core area of arid central Asia which is dominated by the westerlies. We therefore propose that an increase in the intensity of the westerlies across the Holocene, driven by increasing winter insolation, expanding Arctic sea ice extent and the enhanced Okhotsk High, caused an increase in moisture during the late Holocene in NE China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date24 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • peatland
  • GDGTs
  • Holocene hydrological evolution
  • air temperature
  • NE China


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