Controls of precipitation and vegetation variability on the NE Tibetan Plateau during the late Pliocene warmth (~3.5–3.0 Ma)

Schwarz, Florian, Salzmann, Ulrich, Koutsodendris, Andreas, Nie, Junsheng, Friedrich, Oliver, Ni, Jian, Garzione, Carmala, Fang, Xiaomin, Wu, Fuli, Woodward, John, Appel, Erwin and Pross, Jörg (2022) Controls of precipitation and vegetation variability on the NE Tibetan Plateau during the late Pliocene warmth (~3.5–3.0 Ma). Global and Planetary Change, 208. p. 103707. ISSN 0921-8181

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To better understand precipitation variability in a warmer-than-present world with elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations, this study presents high-resolution palynological and element geochemical analyses of a late Pliocene drill core (3.5–3.0 Ma) from the today hyperarid Qaidam Basin on the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau. Quantitative rainfall estimates based on modern pollen-climate transfer functions indicate a 10-fold higher annual rainfall during the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period (mPWP; 3.264–3.025 Ma) than today, with values of 300–400 mm/a. Throughout the late Pliocene, the Qaidam Basin was covered with a temperate semi-desert shrubland. Varying percentages of the local lakeshore vegetation and long-distance arboreal pollen, as well as fluctuations in carbonate-silicate geochemistry, indicate a highly variable rainfall. Our study suggests that precipitation in the northern Qaidam Basin was primarily controlled by an East Asian Monsoon system (EAMS) that was located further north than today. Spectral analysis of the Artemisia/Chenopodiaceae (A/C) pollen ratio indicates an orbitally controlled cyclicity with a strong link between moisture availability and insolation forcing. A decline in precipitation before the end of the mPWP at ca. 3.15 Ma is likely to be linked to cooling in the North Atlantic and initial Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet build-up. Our study identifies NH insolation and ice-sheet advances as major controls of the Late Pliocene variability and strength of the EAMS in semi-arid NW-China.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This research received financial support from the Royal Society (grant IE 141128 to US and JN), the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) through the ‘CAME II’ project (grant 03G086B to JP), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC grant 41620104002 to XF), and the German Research Foundation (DFG) through grants FR2544/13 to OF, KO4960/4 to AK, and PR651/8 to JP. We thank H. Campos, K. Nakajima, Y. Lu, and M. Vannacci for technical assistance.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Pliocene, Tibetan Plateau, East Asian Monsoon, palynology, XRF, Qaidam Basin
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2021 10:59
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2022 08:00

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