The Asian Monsoon Moisture Transportation Revealed by Two Cave Sites in Myanmar

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Guangxin Liu1,2, Xianfeng Wang1,2, Hong-Wei Chiang1,2, Phyo Maung Maung3, Xiuyang Jiang4, Lin Thu Aung5 and Soe Thura Tun5, (1)Earth Observatory of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, (2)Nanyang Technological University, Division of Earth Sciences, Singapore, Singapore, (3)Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, (4)Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou, China, (5)Myanmar Engineering Society, Myanmar Earthquake Committee, Yangon, Myanmar
Here we present two well-resolved, calcite δ18O records on Myanmar speleothems. The samples were collected from a coastal site in southeastern Myanmar and a plateau site in central Myanmar, respectively. Chronologically determined by high-precision U/Th dating techniques, both records span a large portion of the past 40,000 years. The two records show similar millennial-scale oscillations during the last glacial period, which are also in-phase with the speleothem records from Chinese cave sites located in the downstream of Indian Monsoon trajectories.

The δ18O values between the two profiles are virtually the same, ~ -7.5‰, during late Holocene, in concert with the numbers in modern rainfall at the two sites. However, in glacial time, the δ18O value of the central Myanmar record shifts from -6.5‰ to -8‰, approximately 2‰ lower than that in the coastal dataset, which varies from -4.5‰ to -6‰. We interpret the similarly low δ18O values during Holocene in both records as a result of strong monsoonal rainfall and water recycling particularly through forest transpiration. However in glacial time, with a possibly drier and less forested land, water recycling is weaker. Therefore, rainfall δ18O and subsequently speleothem δ18O appear a stronger geographical gradient, possibly dominated by the continental rainout effect.

Our interpretation can be supported by the speleothem δ13C records from the two sites. Calcite δ13C from the coastal site varies slightly from ~-7‰ in the last glacial to ~-9‰ in Holocene. Whereas it shares a similar value to the coastal record during Holocene, the δ13C profile from the plateau site shows a much higher value, up to -0.7‰, during the glacial time. This suggests that the mountainous region in central Myanmar was likely dominated by C4 plants (e.g., grass) during the glacial time, while the same region is covered by forests today. Such change on vegetation type and coverage may influence the δ18O of recycling moisture transported further inland.