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Durham University

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Asian Monsoon Climate Variability

A research project of the Department of Geography.


In this project we are investigating the connections between monsoon climate change, orbital and non-orbital solar insolation on millennial and centennial timescales. We are also investigating possible teleconnections between the Asian monsoon system and other climate systems including the northern North Atlantic and palaeo-ENSO systems. In the first part of this project, we have examined estuarine records obtained from the Pearl River estuary. We have developed a new proxy for monsoon intensity based on δ13C and C/N ratio from bulk organic carbon. This is predominantly controlled by the source of carbon material to the estuary linked to freshwater flux from the catchment, in turn linked to monsoonal rainfall. The results show a close relationship between monsoon driven freshwater discharge and changes in solar insolation during the Holocene (Zong et al., 2006). This research is being extended by a PhD student, F. Yu (2005-2008), who is investing modern organic carbon sources and characteristics and reconstructing monsoon driven freshwater flux from a high-resolution estuarine record. The second part of this project started in 2007 and involves collection and analysis of a long sedimentary record from a maar lake in southern China. This investigation will be carried out partly by a PhD student, C. Brodie (2007-2010), who will analyse organic carbon isotopes, carbonate oxygen isotopes and dust concentration from the core.

This research was funded initially by two NERC studentships and supported by NERC grants from the NIGL and NERC Radiocarbon dating facility. Further funding will be sought to extend this research. This research is in collaboration with colleagues elsewhere, including Professor W. W.-S. Yim of Hong Kong, Professor Z. Zheng of Zhongshen University, China, Professor G. Huang of South China University of Technology, China, Professor M. Bird of St Andrews and Professor M.J. Leng of NIGL, BGS.

The Pearl River estuary
The Pearl River estuary

PhD Students

Fengling Yu (2005-2008) NERC Dorothy Hodgkin Studentship. Reconstruction of Holocene East Asian monsoon variability from the Pearl Estuary.
Chris Brodie (2007-2010) NERC Studentship. East Asian monsoon palaeoclimate variability at orbital and sub-orbital timescale since MIS3.

A grab sampler used to capture modern surface sediment samples
A grab sampler used to capture modern surface sediment samples


Zong Y., Lloyd J.M., Leng M.J., W.W.-S. Yim and Huang G. 2006. Reconstruction of Holocene monsoon history from the Pearl Rive Estuary, southern China, using diatoms and carbon isotope ratios. The Holocene 16, 251-263.

A drilling rig used to capture estuarine sediment cores
A drilling rig used to capture estuarine sediment cores

Analysing a sediment core
Analysing a sediment core


From the Department of Geography

Further information

For further information, please contact Dr Jeremy Lloyd.