Leads, lags, or synchronies in climatic events among different regions are key to understanding mechanisms of climate change, as they provide insights into the causal linkages among components of the climate system. The well-studied transition from the Lateglacial to early Holocene (ca. 16–10 ka) contains several abrupt climatic shifts, making this period ideal for assessing the spatio-temporal structure of climate change. However, comparisons of timings of past climatic events among regions often remain hypothetical because site-specific age scales are not necessarily synchronised to each other. Here we present new pollen data (n = 510) and mean annual temperature reconstruction from the annually laminated sediments of Lake Suigetsu, Japan. Suigetsu's 14C dataset is an integral component of the IntCal20 radiocarbon calibration model, in which the absolute age scale is established to the highest standard. Its exceptionally high-precision chronology, along with recent advances in cosmogenic isotope studies of ice cores, enables temporally coherent comparisons among Suigetsu, Greenland, and other key proxy records across regions.
We show that the onsets of the Lateglacial cold reversal (equivalent to GS-1/Younger Dryas) and the Holocene were synchronous between East Asia and the North Atlantic, whereas the Lateglacial interstadial (equivalent to GI-1/Bølling-Allerød) started ca. two centuries earlier in East Asia than in the North Atlantic. Bimodal migration (or ‘jump’) of the westerly jet between north and south of the Tibetan plateau and Himalayas may have operated as a threshold system responsible for the abruptness of the change in East and South (and possibly also West) Asia. That threshold in Asia and another major threshold in the North Atlantic, associated with switching on/off of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), were crossed at different times, producing a multi-centennial asynchrony of abrupt changes, as well as a disparity of climatic modes among regions during the transitional phases. Such disparity may have disturbed zonal circulation and generated unstable climate during transitions. The intervening periods with stable climate, on the other hand, coincided with the beginnings of sedentary life and agriculture, implying that these new lifestyles and technologies were not rational unless climate was stable and thus, to a certain extent, predictable.