Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 77 ›› Issue (5): 1169-1180.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202205009

• Climate and Environmental Change • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Holocene temperature history and its significance to studies on historical human-land relationship in China

RAO Zhiguo(), QIN Qianqian, WEI Shikai, GUO Haichun, LI Yunxia   

  1. Key Laboratory of Ecological and Environmental Change in Subtropical Zone, College of Geographic Science, Hunan Normal University, Changsha 410081, China
  • Received:2021-11-27 Revised:2022-03-15 Online:2022-05-25 Published:2022-07-20
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42171156)


During the past few years, an increasing number of studies in both China and abroad have highlighted a long-term warming trend during the Holocene. However, this trend challenges the traditional view of a long-term Holocene cooling trend and a "mid-Holocene Megathermal". Comparison of long-term records indicating a rising global sea level, a decreasing area of terrestrial ice-sheets, and increasing radiative forcings of insolation and GHGs (greenhouse gases) leads us to conclude that a long-term Holocene warming trend is more reasonable than the cooling trend. In the original literature documenting a "mid-Holocene Megathermal" and the subsequent late Holocene cooling trend in China, the uncertainties in the supporting evidence are clearly indicated. These uncertainties have been further demonstrated by recent results that the most significant uncertainty arises from the impacts of human activities on sedimentary proxies, especially in the late Holocene when these impacts were greatly intensified. Thus, reconstructions of late Holocene temperature history based on sedimentary proxies are potentially biased by human impacts. Given that the current debate regarding temperature history of the Holocene focuses on the late Holocene, we propose that future emphasis should be placed on the temperature history of the late Holocene. We suggest that more reliable late Holocene temperature records should come from areas and/or sedimentary proxies that are weakly influenced by human activities, which is especially important to studies on the development of Chinese civilization that lasted for over several millennia. Overall, reliable late Holocene temperature records can potentially provide a reliable foundation for improving our understanding of the following themes: (1) the development of Chinese civilization under the background of long-term temperature change; (2) the evolutionary history of "human-land relationship" during the late Holocene; and (3) the climatic and environmental issues associated with global warming.

Key words: Holocene, warming, cooling, late Holocene, historical human-land relationship, China