Late Glacial to Holocene Indian Summer Monsoon Variability Based upon Sediment Records Taken from the Bay of Bengal

  • Author(s): Harunur Rashid, Emily England, Lonnie Thompson, and Leonid Polyak
  • DOI: 10.3319/TAO.2010.09.17.02(TibXS)
  • Keywords: Indian summer monsoon, Climate change, Demise of ancient civilizations
  • Citation: Rashid, H., E. England, L. Thompson, and L. Polyak, 2011: Late glacial to Holocene Indian summer monsoon variability based upon sediment records taken from the Bay of Bengal. Terr. Atmos. Ocean. Sci., 22, 215-228, doi: 10.3319/TAO.2010.09.17.02(TibXS)

Paleoclimatic records from the Bay of Bengal are rare. We reconstruct the sea-surface temperature (SST) and salinity from paired δ18O and Mg/Ca measurements in planktonic foraminifera Globigerinoides ruber from the western Bay of Bengal core VM29-19. Our data suggest that SST and seawater δ18O (δ18Osw) were ~3°C colder and ~0.6‰ depleted, respectively, during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) compared to the early Holocene. The most enriched δ18Osw values were found between 18.2 and 15.6 ka interval. Depleted LGM δ18Osw values suggest a wet climate which freshened the Bay of Bengal sea surface. Our data further indicate that the monsoon was stronger in the Bølling/Allerød and weaker in the Younger Dryas periods. The most depleted early Holocene δ18Osw values suggest that the monsoon was stronger and wetter resulting in a humid climate. After ~5 ka the Indian summer monsoon weakened significantly, indicating less dilution of the sea surface by the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna outflow and/or less direct rainfall. We hypothesize that the prevailing late Holocene dry climate may have caused the diminishment and subsequent abandonment of the settlements of the great Indus Valley Civilizations. Our Bay of Bengal climate records are consistent with those from the Andaman Sea, corroborating broad regional changes in the Indian summer monsoon during the last 25 ka. The general pattern and timing of monsoon variability in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea seems to parallel the Arabian Sea, Africa, and Asian ice cores and speleothem records suggesting that a common tropical forcing may have induced these abrupt climate changes.

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