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Holocene hydroclimatic variability in the Zanskar Valley, Northwestern Himalaya, India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 April 2020

Sheikh Nawaz Ali*
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India
Shailesh Agrawal
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India
Anupam Sharma
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India
Binita Phartiyal
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India
Paulramasamy Morthekai
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India
Pawan Govil
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India
Ravi Bhushan
Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmadabad, India
Shazi Farooqui
Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India
Partha Sarathi Jena
Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmadabad, India
Ajay Shivam
Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmadabad, India
*Corresponding author at:


A 1.3-m-long sediment core from the Penzi-la pass, Zanskar Valley, provides a record of hydroclimatic conditions and abrupt climate changes over short time scales since the mid-Holocene. These climatic changes of centennial time scale are crucial to understanding the hydroclimatic variability in northwestern (NW) Himalaya. Relatively higher δ13C values complemented by total organic carbon, loss on ignition, grain size parameters, and lower Rubidium/Strontium ratios during the Late Northgrippian imply that the area had a dry climate during the period from ~6200–4500 cal yr BP. Subsequently, a relatively stable hydroclimatic environment was experienced between ~4500 and 3400 cal yr BP. After ~3400 cal yr BP the multiproxy data show gradual strengthening of hydroclimatic conditions, however, this trend is interrupted by high-amplitude abrupt reversals (dry events) with a stepwise decreasing intensity at ~3300, 2600, 1700, and 400 cal yr BP. The two most important climatic events of the last millennia (i.e., Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age) were also recorded from the sedimentary archive. Overall, our data show a progressive increase in the moisture availability in the Zanskar Valley and are in agreement with the late Holocene climatic trends of central and western Himalaya.

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Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2020

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