Deglacial Indian monsoon failure and North Atlantic stadials linked by Indian Ocean surface cooling Academic Article uri icon


  • The Indian monsoon, the largest monsoon system on Earth, responds to remote climatic forcings, including temperature changes in the North Atlantic(1,2). The monsoon was weak during two cool periods that punctuated the last deglaciation-Heinrich Stadial 1 and the Younger Dryas. It has been suggested that sea surface cooling in the Indian Ocean was the critical link between these North Atlantic stadials and monsoon failure(3); however, based on existing proxy records(4) it is unclear whether surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea dropped during these intervals. Here we compile new and existing temperature proxy data(4-7) from the Arabian Sea, and find that surface temperatures cooled whereas subsurface temperatures warmed during both Heinrich Stadial 1 and the Younger Dryas. Our analysis of model simulations shows that surface cooling weakens the monsoon winds and leads to destratification of the water column and substantial subsurface warming. We thus conclude that sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean are indeed the link between North Atlantic climate and the strength of the Indian monsoon.

publication date

  • January 2016