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Asian inland wildfires driven by glacial-interglacial climate change

Jennifer Marlon and 11 other contributors

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    Abstract

    Wildfire can influence climate directly and indirectly, but little is known about the relationships between wildfire and climate during the Quaternary, especially how wildfire patterns varied over glacial-interglacial cycles. Here, we present a high-resolution soot record from the Chinese Loess Plateau; this is a record of large-scale, high-intensity fires over the past 2.6 My. We observed a unique and distinct glacial-interglacial cyclicity of soot over the entire Quaternary Period synchronous with marine delta O-18 and dust records, which suggests that ice-volume-modulated aridity controlled wildfire occurrences, soot production, and dust fluxes in central Asia. The high-intensity fires were also found to be anticorrelated with global atmospheric CO2 records over the past eight glacial-interglacial cycles, implying a possible connection between the fires, dust, and climate mediated through the iron cycle. The significance of this hypothetical connection remains to be determined, but the relationships revealed in this study hint at the potential importance of wildfire for the global climate system.