Moisture changes over the last millennium in arid central Asia: a review, synthesis and comparison with monsoon region

FH Chen, JH Chen, J Holmes, Ian Boomer, P Austin, JB Gates, NL Wang, SJ Brooks, JW Zhang

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273 Citations (Scopus)


There is a strong chance that 20th century warming will cause differences in precipitation distribution, hydrological cycle and effective moisture changes over the globe Arid central Asia (ACA), a unique dry-land area whose atmospheric circulation is dominated today by the westerlies, is one of the specific regions that are likely to be strongly impacted by global warming. An understanding of past variations in effective moisture in such regions is an important prerequisite for the prediction of future hydrological change. Here we evaluate spatial and temporal patterns of effective moisture variations documented by different proxies from 17 records in ACA, and synthesize a decadal-resolution moisture curve for ACA over the past millennium, using 5 of the 17 records selected on the basis of reliable chronologies and robust proxies The high- and low-resolution data all show that, over the past millennium, ACA has been characterized by a relatively dry Medieval Warm Period (MWP: the period from similar to 1000 to 1350 AD), a wet Little Ice Age (LIA. from similar to 1500 to 1850 AD) and increasing moisture during recent decades As a whole, the LIA in the ACA was not only relatively humid but also had high precipitation. Over the past millennium, the multi-centennial moisture changes in ACA show a generally inverse relationship with the temperature changes in the Northern Hemisphere, China, and western central Asia The effective moisture history in ACA also shows an out-of-phase relationship with that in monsoon Asia (especially during the LIA). We propose that the humid LIA in ACA, possibly extending to Mediterranean Sea and Western Europe, may have resulted from increased precipitation due to more frequent mid-latitude cyclone activities as a result of the strengthening and equator-ward shift of the westerly jet stream, and the predominantly negative North Atlantic Oscillation conditions, coupled with a decrease in evapo-transpiration caused by the cooling at that time (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1068
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010


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