Speleothems as high-resolution paleoenvironment archives: Records from northeastern China



The isotopic compositions of oxygen and carbon and trace concentrations of magnesium and strontium in speleothems formed in limestone caves respond to climate changes outside the caves. Measurements of these properties on a stalagmite from Shihua Cave near Beijing, China, allowed reconstruction of the regional changes in precipitation, temperature and nature of vegetation. Over the last ∼ 500 years, there were fourteen precipitation cycles with a periodicity of 30–40 years, which may well reflect fluctuations in the strength of the East Asian summer monsoons reaching northeastern China. Relative to the mean temperature of this time interval, the period 1620–1900 AD was cold and periods 1520–1620 and 1900–1994 were warm. Over the last ∼ 3000-years, about eight wet/cool-dry/warm climatic cycles of 300–400 years duration occurred, the latest wet/cool half cycle corresponding to the Little Ice Age. The δ13C record registers the anthropogenic activities of fossil fuel CO2 combustion in recent decades and regional deforestation between 13 and 16 centuries when Beijing was bustling with palatial constructions and being developed into the world’s most populated city.


Speleothem paleoclimate high-resolution oxygen isotopes carbon isotopes trace metals 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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