Extra-tropical circulation systems impede poleward moisture advection by the Indian Summer Monsoon. In this context, the Himalayan range is believed to insulate the south Asian circulation from extra-tropical influences and to delineate the northern extent of the Indian Summer Monsoon in central Asia. Paleoclimatic evidence, however, suggests increased moisture availability in the Early Holocene north of the Himalayan range which is attributed to an intensification of the Indian Summer Monsoon. Nevertheless, mechanisms leading to a surpassing of the Himalayan range and the northern maximum extent of summer monsoonal influence remain unknown. Here we show that the Kunlun barrier on the northern Tibetan Plateau [~36°N] delimits Indian Summer Monsoon precipitation during the Holocene. The presence of the barrier relocates the insulation effect 1,000 km further north, allowing a continental low intensity branch of the Indian Summer Monsoon which is persistent throughout the Holocene. Precipitation intensities at its northern extent seem to be driven by differentiated solar heating of the Northern Hemisphere indicating dependency on energy-gradients rather than absolute radiation intensities. The identified spatial constraints of monsoonal precipitation will facilitate the prediction of future monsoonal precipitation patterns in Central Asia under varying climatic conditions.
AWI Organizations > Geosciences > Marine Geology and Paleontology