Modern climate in Oman and Yemen is strongly governed by the Indian and African monsoons and the latitudinal position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), making it an ideal area to investigate how monsoonal rainfall fluctuated during the Quaternary Period. By using speleothems from various caves we were able to reconstruct:

  • Migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and variability of the Indian and African monsoons
  • External (e.g., orbital, solar) and internal (e.g., glacial boundary) forcing factors of the Indian monsoon
  • Changes in rainfall and moisture sources in Southern Arabia over glacial and interglacial cycles
  • Timing and duration of abrupt climatic events, such as Dansgaard-Oeschger events or the well-known 8.2 kyr cold event
  • Influence of hydrological changes on hominin dispersals across Southern Arabia
  • Impact of megadroughts on societies and environmental context for the emergence and rise of Islam

Key Publications

Fleitmann, D., Haldon, J., Bradley, R.S., Burns, S.J., Cheng, H., Edwards, R.L., Raible, C.C., Jacobson, M., Matter, A. (2022). Droughts, societal change and a context for the emergence of Islam in late Antique Arabia. Science 376; 1317-+.

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S.J., Matter, A., Cheng, H., Affolter, S. (2022). Moisture and seasonality shifts recorded in Holocene and Pleistocene speleothems from south-eastern Arabia. Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2021GL097255, 2022.

Nicholson, S.L., Hosfield, R., Groucutt, H.S., Pike, A.W.G., Burns, S.J., Matter, A., Fleitmann, D. (2022). A climatic evaluation of the southern dispersal route during MIS 5e. Quaternary Science Reviews, 279, 10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107378.

Nicholson, S.L., Jacobson, M.J., Hosfield, R., Fleitmann, D. (2021). The Stalagmite record of Southern Arabia: Climatic Extremes, Human Evolution and Societal Development. Frontiers in Earth Science, 9, 10.3389/feart.2021.749488.

Nicholson, S.L., Hosfield, R., Groucutt, H., Pike, A., Fleitmann, D. (2021). Beyond arrows on a map: the dynamics of Homo sapiens dispersal and occupation of Arabia during Marine Isotope Stage 5. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 62: 10.1016/j.jaa.2021.101269.

Nicholson, S.L., Pike, A.W.G., Hosfield, R., Roberts, N., Sahy, D., Woodhead, J., Cheng, H., Edwards, R.L., Affolter, S., Leuenberger, M., Burns, S.J., Matter, A., Fleitmann, D. (2020). Pluvial periods in Southern Arabia over the last 1.1. million years. Quaternary Science Reviews, 229,

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S.J., Pekala, M., Mangini, A., Al-Subbary, A.A., Al-Aowah, M., Kramers, J, Matter A. (2011). Holocene and Pleistocene pluvial periods in Yemen, Southern Arabia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 30: 783-787; doi: 10.1026/j.quascirev.2011.01.004.

Cheng, H.*, Fleitmann, D*., Edwards, R.L., Wang, X.F., Cruz, F.W., Auler, A.S., Mangini, A., Wang, Y.J., Burns, S.J., Matter, A. (2009). Timing and structure of the 8.2 ky event inferred from δ18O records of stalagmites from China, Oman and Brazil. Geology, 37, doi: 10.1130/G30126A.1. (* both authors have contributed equally to the paper)

Fleitmann, D. and Matter, A. (2009). The speleothem record of climate variability in Southern Arabia. Comptes RendusGeoscience, 341, 633-642.

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S.J., Mudelsee, M., Bradley, R.S., Kramers, J., Matter, A. (2008). A widespread climatic anomaly at around 9200 years before present. Paleoceanography, 23, PA1102, doi:10.1029/2007PA001519.

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S. J., Mangini, A., Mudelsee, M., Kramers, J., Villa, I., Neff, U., Al-Subbary, A. A., Büttner, A., Hippler, D., Matter, A. (2007). Holocene ITCZ and Indian monsoon dynamics recorded in stalagmites from Oman and Yemen (Socotra). Quaternary Science Reviews, 26, 170-188. (Among the 25 most downloaded and five most cited papers in Quaternary Science Reviews between 2007 and 2012)

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S.J., Neff, U., Mudelsee, M., Mangini, A., Kramers, J., Matter, A. (2004). Holocene records of rainfall variation and associated ITCZ migration from stalagmites from Northern and Southern Oman. In: The Hadley Circulation: Present, Past and Future. Diaz, H.F. and Bradley, R.S. (Eds.), 259-289 (511p).

Fleitmann, D., Matter, A., Burns, S. J., Al-Subbary, A., Al-Aowah (2004). Geology and Quaternary climate history of Socotra. Fauna of Arabia, 20, 27-45.

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S. J., Neff, U., Mudelsee, M., Mangini, A., Matter, A. (2004). Paleoclimatic interpretation of high-resolution oxygen isotope profiles derived from annually laminated speleothems from Southern Oman. Quaternary Science Reviews, 23, 935-945.

Burns, S. J., Fleitmann, D., Matter, A., Kramers, J., Al-Subbary, A. A. (2003). Indian Ocean climate and an absolute chronology over Dansgaard/Oeschger events 9 to 13. Science, 301, 1365-1367. See also: Burns, S.J., Fleitmann, D., Matter, A., Kramers, J., Al-Subbary, A. A. (2004). Corrections and clarifications – Indian ocean climate and an absolute chronology over Dansgaard-Oeschger events 9 to 13, Science, 305, 1567.

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S. J., Mudelsee, M., Neff, U., Kramers, J., Mangini, A., Matter, A. (2003). Holocene forcing of the Indian monsoon recorded in a stalagmite from Southern Oman. Science, 300, 1737-1739.

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S. J., Neff, U., Mangini, A., Matter, A. (2003). Changing moisture sources over the Last 330,000 Years in Northern Oman from fluid-inclusion evidence in speleothems. Quaternary Research, 60, 223-232. (Among the 25 most downloaded papers)

Fleitmann, D., Burns, S.J., Neff, U., Al-Subbary, A.A., Al-Aowah, M.A., Matter, A., Mangini, A. (2002). Climate change in Southern Arabia: Speleothems from Yemen and Oman as archives for monsoon rainfall over the last 330,000 years. Yemeni Journal of Science, 4, 15-23.

Burns, S.J., Fleitmann, D., Mudelsee, M., Neff, U., Mangini, A., Matter, A. (2002). A 780-year annually-resolved record of Indian Ocean monsoon variation in a speleothem from south Oman. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 107, doi:10.1029/2001JD001281.

Burns, S.J., Fleitmann, D., Matter, A., Neff, U., Mangini, A. (2001). Speleothem evidence from Oman for continental pluvial events during interglacial periods. Geology, 29, 623-626.

Neff, U., Burns, S.J., Mangini, A., Mudelsee, M., Fleitmann, D., Matter, A. (2001). Evidence for solar forcing of the Indian Monsoon in a high-resolution speleothem record from Oman. Nature, 411, 290-293.


Further publications

Therre, S., Fohlmeister, J., Fleitmann, D., Matter, A., Burns, S.J., Schröder-Ritzrau, A., Friedrich, R., Frank, N. (2020). Climate-induced speleothem radiocarbon variability on Socotra Island from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Younger Dryas. Climate of the Past, 16(1), 409-421.

Cremaschi, M., Esposti, M.D., Fleitmann, D., Perego, A., Sibilia, E., Zerboni, A. (2018). Late Holocene onset of intensive cultivation and introduction of the falaj irrigation system in the Salut oasis (Sultanate of Oman). Quaternary Science Reviews, 200, 123-140.

Van Rampelbergh, M., Fleitmann, D., Verheyden, S., Cheng, H., Edwards, L., De Geest, P., De Vleeschouwer, D., Claeys, P., Burns, S.J., Matter, A. (2013), Keppens. Mid- to late Holocene Indian Ocean monsoon variability recorde; d in four speleothems from Socotra Island, Yemen. Quaternary Science Reviews, 65, 129-142 (Among the most 25 most downloaded papers).

Vogel, N., Scheidegger, Y., Brennwald, M.S., Fleitmann, D., Figura, S., Wieler, R, Kipfer, R. (2013). Stalagmite water content as a proxy for drip water supply in tropical and subtropical areas. Climate of the Past, 9, 1-12.

Scheidegger, Y., Baur, H., Brennwald, M.S., Fleitmann D., Wieler, R., Kipfer, R. (2010). Accurate analysis of noble gas concentrations in small water samples and its application to fluid inclusions in stalagmites. Chemical Geology, 272, 31-39.

Shakun, J.D., Burns, S.J., Fleitmann, D., Kramers, J., Matter, A., Al-Subary, A. (2007). A high-resolution, absolute-dated deglacial speleothem record of Indian Ocean climate from Socotra Island, Yemen. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 259, 442-456.

Immenhauser, A., Dublyansky, Y.V., Vewer, K., Fleitmann, D., Pashenko, S.E. (2007). Textural, elemental and isotopic characteristics of Pleistocene phreatic cave deposits (Jabal Madar, Oman): A tale from two worlds. Journal of Sedimentary Research, 77, doi: 10.2110/jsr.2007.012.

Facts & Figures

2017-2021 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) SWW DTP PhD-studentship to Matthew Jacobson

2016-2020  Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) SWW DTP PhD-studentship to Sam Nicholson

2016-2017 NERC Facility Grant

2011-2015 SNSF Sinergia “STALCLIM”

1998-2002 SNSF project grant  

Responsible Scientists
Prof. Dominik Fleitmann
Dr. Stéphane Affolter
Alistair Morgan