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National Science Review

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The past Asian precipitation δ¹⁸O (δ¹⁸Op) records from stalagmites and other deposits have shown significant orbital-scale variations, but their climatic implications and regional differences are still not fully understood. This study, as the first attempt of a 300-kyr transient stable isotope-enabled simulation, investigated the characteristics and mechanisms of the orbital-scale δ¹⁸Op variations in three representative regions of Asia: arid Central Asia (CA), monsoonal South Asia (SA), and monsoonal East Asia (EA). The modeling results showed that the variations in the CA, SA, and EA annual δ¹⁸Op exhibited significant but asynchronous 23-kyr precession cycles. Further analyses revealed that although the precession-induced insolation variation was the ultimate cause of the δ¹⁸Op variation in all three regions, the dominant mechanisms and the involved physical processes were distinct among them. For the CA region, the rainy-season (November–March) temperature effect and water vapor transport by the westerly circulation were identified as the key precession-scale processes linking the October–February boreal mid-latitude insolation to the rainy-season or annual δ¹⁸Op. In the SA region, the rainy-season (June–September) precipitation amount effect and upstream depletion of the monsoonal water vapor δ¹⁸O served as the main mechanisms linking the rainy-season or annual δ¹⁸Op to the April–July insolation variation at the precession scale. For the EA region, however, the precession-scale annual δ¹⁸Op was mainly controlled by the late-monsoon (August–September) and pre-monsoon (April–May) water vapor transport patterns, which were driven by the July–August insolation and the global ice volume, respectively. These results suggest that the climatic implications of the orbital-scale Asia δ¹⁸Op variations are sensitive to their geographic locations as determined by the combined effects of insolation and regional circulation patterns associated with the respective rainy seasons. This study provides new insights into understanding the regional differences and formation mechanisms of the Asian orbital-scale δ¹⁸Op variations.