The monsoon


La mousson
L’hypothèse orbital sur le phénomène de mousson Source : Ruddiman William F., Earth’s climate – Past and future – Third Edition Fig. 9-4, 2014

The monsoon system is characterized by a seasonal meridian swing in winds and precipitation which produces dry winters and humid summers in the Tropics. This system arises from the difference in heat that is seasonally created between the oceans and the continent and between the two hemispheres of the world. It is a key mechanism in the world’s current and past climatic systems because it plays and essential role in the global distribution of heat and humidity.

Paleoclimatic studies show that the dynamics of the regional monsoon systems have varied over time, particularly during the Quaternary, as a function of the earth’s orbital parameters and insolation forcing. It appears that complex processes and interactions involving, for example, the extent of the ice caps, changes in atmospheric pCO2 and ocean dynamics, have also contributed to the variability of monsoon dynamics over time. On the continents, past variations in precipitation and wind regimes determined the vulnerability of rocks to erosion by impacting on river flows, vegetation type and soil types. These variations thus affect chemical alteration in the source zones, the mobilization of sedimentary material on the continents and the transfer of this material, by water and/or air, to the ocean basins.  In the oceans, they cause significant changes in the dynamics of surface waters and particularly in the depths of the thermocline/nutricline which in turn have a considerable impact on primary producers (particularly coccolithophores). It is in this context that a multi-tool study (using sedimentological, mineralogical, geochemical and micropaleontological analyses) of sedimentary archives retrieved for African, Indian and Asian monsoon contexts, allows us to examine, from various angles, the issue of variability in the Monsoon system at various spatial and temporal scales.


Our research activities focus on the study of variability in the dynamics of the monsoon system in the various tropical regions of the world during the Late Quaternary. Our objective is to improve our understanding of the forcings associated with the monsoon system and to study the paleo-environmental changes in the low latitudes, as well as the existing climatic tele-connections in the middle to high latitudes.

Doctoral students

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Recent publications

Joussain R, Colin C, Liu Z, Meynadier L, Fournier L, Fauquembergue K, Zaragosi S, Schmidt F, Rojas V, Bassinot F [2016] Climatic control of sediment transport from the Himalayas to the proximal NE Bengal Fan during the last glacial-interglacial cycle; Quaternary Science Reviews 148, 1-16

Yu Z, Wan S, Colin C, Yan H, Bonneau L, Liu Z, Song L, Sun H, Xu Z, Jiang X, Li A, Li T [2016] Co-evolution of monsoonal precipitation in East Asia and the tropical Pacific ENSO system since 236 Ma: new insights from high-resolution clay mineral records in the West Philippine Sea; EPSL 446, 45–55

Joussain R, Liu Z, Colin C, Duchamp-Alphonse S, Moréno E, Fournier L, Zaragosi S, Dapoigny A, Meynadier L, Bassinot F [2017] Link between Indian monsoon rainfall and physical erosion in the Himalayan system during the Holocene; G-Cubed 18, 3452-3469, doi: 101002/2016GC006762

Skonieczny C., McGee D., Winckler G., Bory A., Bradtmiller L., Kinsley C. W., Polissar P. J., R. De Pol-Holz, Rossignol L., Malaizé B., [2019]. Monsoon-driven Saharan dust variability over the past 240,000 years, Science Advances 5, no. 1, eaav1887

Zhao S, Liu Z, Colin C, Zhao Y, Wang X, Jian Z [2018] Responses of the East Asian summer monsoon in the low-latitude South China Sea to high-latitude millennial-scale climatic changes during the last glaciation: Evidence from a high-resolution clay mineralogical record; Paleoceanography and paleoclimatology