South Asian precipitation amount and extreme variability are predicted to increase due to thermodynamic effects of increased 21st-century greenhouse gases, accompanied by an increased supply of moisture from the southern hemisphere Indian Ocean. We reconstructed South Asian summer monsoon precipitation and runoff into the Bay of Bengal to assess the extent to which these factors also operated in the Pleistocene, a time of large-scale natural changes in carbon dioxide and ice volume. South Asian precipitation and runoff are strongly coherent with, and lag, atmospheric carbon dioxide changes at Earth’s orbital eccentricity, obliquity, and precession bands and are closely tied to cross-equatorial wind strength at the precession band. We find that the projected monsoon response to ongoing, rapid high-latitude ice melt and rising carbon dioxide levels is fully consistent with dynamics of the past 0.9 million years.
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