Evolution of vegetation and climate variability on the Tibetan Plateau over the past 1.74 million years

Yan Zhao*, Polychronis C. Tzedakis, Quan Li, Feng Qin, Qiaoyu Cui, Chen Liang, John B.H. Birks, Yaoliang Liu, Zhiyong Zhang, Junyi Ge, Hui Zhao, Vivian A. Felde, Chenglong Deng, Maotang Cai, Huan Li, Weihe Ren, Haicheng Wei, Hanfei Yang, Jiawu Zhang, Zicheng YuZhengtang Guo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Tibetan Plateau exerts a major influence on Asian climate, but its long-term environmental history remains largely unknown. We present a detailed record of vegetation and climate changes over the past 1.74 million years in a lake sediment core from the Zoige Basin, eastern Tibetan Plateau. Results show three intervals with different orbital- and millennial-scale features superimposed on a stepwise long-term cooling trend. The interval of 1.74–1.54 million years ago is characterized by an insolation-dominated mode with strong ~20,000-year cyclicity and quasi-absent millennial-scale signal. The interval of 1.54–0.62 million years ago represents a transitional insolation-ice mode marked by ~20,000- and ~40,000-year cycles, with superimposed millennial-scale oscillations. The past 620,000 years are characterized by an ice-driven mode with 100,000-year cyclicity and less frequent millennial-scale variability. A pronounced transition occurred 620,000 years ago, as glacial cycles intensified. These new findings reveal how the interaction of low-latitude insolation and high-latitude ice-volume forcing shaped the evolution of the Tibetan Plateau climate.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaay6193
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalScience advances
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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