Considerable uncertainty remains over the nature and causes(s) of East Asian monsoon evolution since the Late Miocene, a significantly warmer period characterized by substantially weaker meridional and zonal Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) gradients than today and therefore regarded as a potential analog for current and future global warming. However, the extent to which these temperature gradients impacted rainfall patterns across East Asia, and particularly the northern extent of the monsoon domain, remains controversial. Here we present the first hydrological record extending back eight million years (Ma) for North China Plain derived from organic biomarkers preserved in a terrestrial sediment sequence. Our record shows a significant increase in monsoon rainfall during the Early Pliocene (∼4.2-4.5 Ma), coincident with strengthening of Pacific meridional and zonal SST gradients, and the eastern equatorial Pacific cold tongue. This marked intensification of the monsoon rainfall in northern China is also observed in paleoclimate archives from southern Asia, but anti-phased with those from central-eastern China (including southern China), indicating a ‘tripole-like’ rainfall pattern over East Asia. Through a set of climate model experiments, we show that this redistribution of monsoon rainfall across East Asia during the Early Pliocene (5.33-3.6 Ma) was likely due to an equatorward contraction of the western Pacific warm pool, reduced summer convection in the western subtropical Pacific, and the strengthening of the Hadley and Walker circulations. Our study thus highlights the strong influence of Pacific Ocean temperature gradients on East Asian hydroclimate.

Original link:

Asian monsoon evolution linked to Pacific temperature gradients since the Late Miocene