Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Evolution of vegetation and climate variability on the Tibetan Plateau over the past 1.74 million years

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Science Advances  06 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 19, eaay6193
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6193


The Tibetan Plateau exerts a major influence on Asian climate, but its long-term environmental history remains largely unknown. We present a detailed record of vegetation and climate changes over the past 1.74 million years in a lake sediment core from the Zoige Basin, eastern Tibetan Plateau. Results show three intervals with different orbital- and millennial-scale features superimposed on a stepwise long-term cooling trend. The interval of 1.74–1.54 million years ago is characterized by an insolation-dominated mode with strong ~20,000-year cyclicity and quasi-absent millennial-scale signal. The interval of 1.54–0.62 million years ago represents a transitional insolation-ice mode marked by ~20,000- and ~40,000-year cycles, with superimposed millennial-scale oscillations. The past 620,000 years are characterized by an ice-driven mode with 100,000-year cyclicity and less frequent millennial-scale variability. A pronounced transition occurred 620,000 years ago, as glacial cycles intensified. These new findings reveal how the interaction of low-latitude insolation and high-latitude ice-volume forcing shaped the evolution of the Tibetan Plateau climate.

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