Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

National Science Review

Volume Number


Issue Number


First Page


Last Page



Publisher PDF: the final published version of the article, with professional formatting and typesetting


The impact of the Tibetan Plateau uplift on the Asian monsoons and inland arid climates is an important but also controversial question in studies of paleoenvironmental change during the Cenozoic. In order to achieve a good understanding of the background for the formation of the Asian monsoons and arid environments, it is necessary to know the characteristics of the distribution of monsoon regions and arid zones in Asia before the plateau uplift. In this study, we discuss in detail the patterns of distribution of the Asian monsoon and arid regions before the plateau uplift on the basis of modeling results without topography from a global coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model, compare our results with previous simulation studies and available biogeological data, and review the uncertainties in the current knowledge. Based on what we know at the moment, tropical monsoon climates existed south of 20°N in South and Southeast Asia before the plateau uplift, while the East Asian monsoon was entirely absent in the extratropics. These tropical monsoons mainly resulted from the seasonal shifts of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. There may have been a quasi-monsoon region in central-southern Siberia. Most of the arid regions in the Asian continent were limited to the latitudes of 20–40°N, corresponding to the range of the subtropical high pressure year-around. In the meantime, the present-day arid regions located in the relatively high latitudes in Central Asia were most likely absent before the plateau uplift. The main results from the above modeling analyses are qualitatively consistent with the available biogeological data. These results highlight the importance of the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau in the Cenozoic evolution of the Asian climate pattern of dry–wet conditions. Future studies should be focused on effects of the changes in land–sea distribution and atmospheric CO2 concentrations before and after the plateau uplift, and also on cross-comparisons between numerical simulations and geological evidence, so that a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of the Cenozoic paleoenvironments in Asia can be achieved.