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The Asian Monsoon, which brings ~80% of annual precipitation to much of the Tibetan Plateau, provides runoff to major rivers across the Asian continent. Paleoclimate records indicate summer insolation and North Atlantic paleotemperature changes forced variations in monsoon rainfall through the Holocene, resulting in hydrologic and ecologic changes in plateau watersheds. We present a record of Holocene hydrologic variability in the Yarlung Tsangpo (YT) valley of the southern Tibetan Plateau, based on sedimentology and 14C dating of organic-rich black mats’ in paleowetlands deposits, that shows changes in wetlands extent in response to changing monsoon intensity. Four sedimentary units indicate decreasing monsoon intensity since 10.4 ka BP. Wet conditions occurred at ~10.4 ka BP, ~9.6 ka BP and ~7.9–4.8 ka BP, with similar-to-modern conditions from ~4.6–2.0 ka BP, and drier-than-modern conditions from ~2.0 ka BP to present. Wetland changes correlate with monsoon intensity changes identified in nearby records, with weak monsoon intervals corresponding to desiccation and erosion of wetlands. Dating of in situ ceramic and microlithic artifacts within the wetlands indicates Epipaleolithic human occupation of the YT valley after 6.6 ka BP, supporting evidence for widespread colonization of the Tibetan Plateau in the early and mid-Holocene during warm, wet post-glacial conditions.
We present a shoreline-based, millennial-scale record of lake-level changes spanning 12.8–2.3 ka for a large closed-basin lake system on the southwestern Tibetan Plateau. Fifty-three radiocarbon and eight U–Th series ages of tufa and beach cement provide age control on paleoshorelines ringing the basin, supplemented by nineteen ages from shell and aquatic plant material from natural exposures generally recording lake regressions. Our results show that paleo-Ngangla Ring Tso exceeded modern lake level (4727 m asl) continuously between ~ 12.8 and 2.3 ka. The lake was at its highstand 135 m (4862 m asl) above the modern lake from 10.3 ka to 8.6 ka. This is similar to other closed-basin lakes in western Tibet, and coincides with peak Northern Hemisphere summer insolation and peak Indian Summer Monsoon intensity. The lake experienced a series of millennial-scale oscillations centered on 11.5, 10.8, 8.3, 5.9 and 3.6 ka, consistent with weak monsoon events in proxy records of the Indian Summer Monsoon. It is unclear whether these events were forced by North Atlantic or Indian Ocean conditions, but based on the abrupt lake-level regressions recorded for Ngangla Ring Tso, they resulted in significant periodic reductions in rainfall over the western Tibetan Plateau throughout the Holocene.
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