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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Report of a three-year monitoring programme at Heshang Cave, Central China


Heshang Cave is situated in central China (30°27’N, 110°25’E; 294 m) in the middle reaches of the Yangtze Valley, a region strongly impacted by the East Asian Monsoon. It contains large annually-laminated Holocene and late Pleistocene stalagmites which capture past monsoon behaviour with seasonal resolution, and could enhance understanding of the amplitude and frequency of monsoon behaviour in different climate states. In this paper, we present results of a 3-year monitoring programme at Heshang. T loggers outside the cave agree closely with T data from nearby meteorological stations. T at the site of growth of the largest recovered stalagmite averages 18°C (identical to mean annual T outside the cave) with a seasonal amplitude of 5ºC (about one fifth of the external cycle). Rainfall measurements from a station 3 km from the cave indicate strong summer monsoon rain in 2004 and 2005, but rather weaker summer rain (by ≈30%) in 2006. Drip rate at the monitoring site has a base flow of 14 drips/minute and shows a sharp increase to ≈40 drips/minute early in the summer rains of 2004 and 2005, followed by a gradual return to base-flow as the monsoon weakens. This abrupt change presumably represents threshold behaviour in the hydrological system. This threshold is not passed in 2006 and there is no abrupt increase in drip rate, indicating the sensitivity of this site (and presumably of speleothem chemistry in this cave) to monsoon rainfall. Results are also reported from a 10-month deployment of a Stalagmate drip counter, and for CO2 levels in Heshang Cave. Overall, this monitoring work represents an essential dataset for interpretation of the chemistry of drip waters, of carbonates grown on glass slides and, ultimately, of long speleothem records of past climate from Heshang Cave.

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