The Qaidam Basin marks a crucial boundary between the Westerlies and the Asian summer monsoons. Previous studies in the Qaidam Basin have advanced our knowledge of the paleoclimate over glacial to interglacial cycles. However, our understanding of the paleoclimatic sensitivity of the Qaidam Basin to the relative strength of these two climatic driving forces remains limited due to the lack of regional paleoclimatic reconstructions. The Qaidam Basin is proposed as a regional and global eolian dust source during the glacial periods, during which a cold, dry climate is associated with the equatorward shift of the jet stream. On the contrary, paleoshoreline records suggest that a highstand lake stage prevailed in late Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS 3) and lasted until 15 ka. To address this conundrum, we have applied an integrated approach to reconstructing the regional paleoclimatic history by combining compound-specific isotope analysis, lake temperature reconstruction, and numerical modeling. Our results show varying paleoclimate associated with the dynamic climate boundary since 45 ka: (1) a wet climate during late MIS 3, when the Asian summer monsoons are strengthened under high summer insolation and penetrate further into Central Asia; (2) a general cold, dry but wetter than at present climate in the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), when the Asian summer monsoons retreat and the Westerlies become dominant; and (3) three short periods of extreme aridity corresponding to the Younger Dryas and Heinrich 2 and 4 events, when the normal moisture transport via the Westerlies and Asian summer monsoons is interrupted. The numerical modeling supports an increase in the effective precipitation during the LGM due to reduced evaporation under low summer insolation. These results suggest that the Westerlies and Asian summer monsoons alternately controlled the climate in the Qaidam Basin in response to precessional forcing during the late Pleistocene.

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