Deconstructing Climate Change In Central Asia

In Central Asia, scientists stumble on the interactions between land, atmosphere and ocean.

Planet Outlook
Ananda Banerjee - July 25, 2021
Deconstructing Climate Change In Central Asia

After torrential rains in Germany and Belgium, it was China’s turn to face the wrath of the rain gods. Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, received more than a year’s worth of rain on July 20. Back home floods in Maharashtra have claimed more than a hundred lives when reports last came in. As apocalyptic scenes of flood mayhem, heatwaves and wildlife from far and near go viral climate scientist has succeeded in reconstructing changes in rainfall in Central Asia over the past five million years. Till date earth's climate evolution was deduced mainly from marine studies such as ocean temperatures, atmospheric currents and glacial erratics. This was the vital missing link for understanding land-water mechanisms for climate change. However, news on this important find has been drowned by extreme weather events from around the world.

In Eastern Kazakhstan, the lesser-known Charyn Canyon resembles the Grand Canyon, US, in form and beauty. Here an international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, have unveiled the story of our planet’s climate preserved in the canyon’s sedimentary layers.

“The 80-meter-thick sedimentary sequence we found at Charyn Canyon in southeast Kazakhstan provides us with a virtually continuous record of five million years of climate change. This is a very rare occurrence on land. The alternating dust and soil layers provide the first reliable evidence, in one place, of long-term interactions between major climate systems on the Eurasian continent. Over the past five million years, the land surfaces of Eurasia appear to have more actively contributed to the land-atmosphere-ocean water cycle than previously acknowledged. The sediments preserved at Charyn Canyon acted as a litmus test for the influx of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean, stimulating the transport of moist air masses from the North Atlantic back onto land via westerly air flows," explained Charlotte Prud'homme, the corresponding lead author of the study - Central Asian modulation of Northern Hemisphere moisture transfer over the Late Cenozoic, published in the scientific journal Communications Earth and Environment. The study puts the spotlight on the role of Central Asia in global climate evolution, both past and present.

According to Kathryn Fitzsimmons Charyn Canyon is ideal, for studying long-term land-climate feedback mechanisms. Fitzsimmons is the Group Leader of the Terrestrial Paleoclimate Reconstruction Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. "We needed to find a place that was inland and as far away from the ocean as possible and we could hardly find a more continental situation than at Charyn Canyon."

The breathtakingly sedimentary beauty of Charyn Canyon opens a new chapter to earth’s climate studies since scientists first suspected the role of greenhouse gases and other natural changes in paleoclimate in the early 19th century. This study of the most complete terrestrial climate archive presents a basis and road map for future climate models. And especially at a time when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reiterated its grim warnings on the climate crisis upending our world.


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