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Stalagmite is scribe for monsoons, society

Cave formation has recorded monsoon strength in China since the third century

A volleyball-sized stalagmite taken from a cave in northern China has given scientists insight about how the region’s precipitation has varied — and possibly influenced the rise and fall of various dynasties — for the past 1,800 years.

Researchers collected the telltale formation about 1 kilometer inside Wanxiang Cave, which lies along the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. In recent years the area has received an average annual precipitation of 48 centimeters, with about 80 percent of that falling during the May-to-September monsoon season.

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