Sensitivity of speleothem records in the Indian Summer Monsoon region to dry season infiltration


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Publication Date

January 2019


In climates with strongly seasonal rainfall, speleothem-based paleoclimate reconstructions are often thought to reflect wet season conditions, assuming a bias toward the season with greater water supply. This is particularly true in monsoon regions, where speleothem records are interpreted to document monsoon strength changes on multiple timescales. Dry season infiltration variability and rainfall seasonality are not typically considered in these reconstructions, even though cave ventilation could bias speleothem growth toward the cooler season. To investigate the influence of dry season infiltration on speleothem geochemistry, we combine a modern, sub-seasonally resolved trace element record from Mawmluh Cave in Northeast India with forward modeling experiments. We find that variations in the amplitude of seasonal signals in speleothem Mg/Ca, which reflects prior carbonate precipitation, are more sensitive to dry season rather than monsoon season infiltration. This sensitivity may be enhanced by dry season cave ventilation. The Mawmluh speleothem Mg/Ca record is consistent with increased dry season rainfall during the 1976–1998 warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation relative to 1964–2013. Our work demonstrates the importance of considering non-monsoon season rainfall when interpreting speleothem paleoclimate records and suggests that trace elements could provide insight into periods of enhanced dry season infiltration in monsoonal climates.


Geochemistry, Palaeoclimate




Scientific Reports, Vol. 9, no. 5091 (2019).