Aeolian sediment evidence that global cooling has driven late Cenozoic stepwise aridification in central Asia
H. Lu, X. Wang, L. Li, 2010. "Aeolian sediment evidence that global cooling has driven late Cenozoic stepwise aridification in central Asia", Monsoon Evolution and Tectonic–Climate Linkage in Asia, P. D. Clift, R. Tada, H. Zheng
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It has been a long held view that uplift of the Tibetan Plateau dominated stepwise climatic drying in central Asia during the late Cenozoic. On the other hand, global cooling may also have forced Asian drying and the subsequent formation of aeolian deposits in north China. Until now, whether the Tibetan uplift or the global cooling has been the first-order driver controlling stepwise Asian drying has remained a contentious issue. In this study, we examine the thick aeolian silt deposit, which is regarded as a good archive of palaeoclimatic changes in central Asia and north China, in order to qualitatively reconstruct the drying process in Asia during the late Cenozoic. On the basis of our long-term field surveys, laboratory analyses and previous investigations, we have obtained time sequences of Asian drying from the early Miocene to late Pleistocene; we compare this newly reconstructed time series of Asian aridification with the time series of global cooling and Tibetan uplift to identify the first-order driver of stepwise Asian aridification. A good match between the drying and global cooling might indicate that global cooling was the most likely driver of stepwise drying in interior Asia. On the other hand, controversy regarding timing and amplitude of Tibetan uplift during the late Cenozoic suggests that the prevailing conclusion that Tibetan uplift forces Asian drying should be regarded as immature. A mechanism that global cooling drove the Asian drying is tentatively suggested.
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The Earth’s climate varies through geological time as a result of external, orbital processes, as well as the positions of continents, growth of mountains and the opening and closure of oceanic gateways. Climate modelling suggests that the intensity of the Asian monsoon should correlate, at least in part, with the uplift history of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya, as well as the evolution of gateways and the retreat of shallow seas in Central Asia. Long-term reconstructions of both mountain building and monsoon activity are key to testing the proposed links. This collection of papers presents a series of new studies documenting the variations of the Asian monsoon on orbital and tectonic timescales, together with the impact this has had on environmental conditions. The issue of which proxies are best suited to measuring monsoons is addressed, as is the effect that the monsoon has had on erosion and the formation of the stratigraphic record both on and offshore.