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A 700-year semi-quantitative history of diffuse groundwater recharge in the Badain Jaran Desert (Inner Mongolia) is proposed on the basis of solute data from multiple unsaturated zone groundwater profiles using mass balance of chloride to establish recharge rates and profile chronologies. Four relatively humid (1330–1430, 1500–1620, 1700–1780 and 1950– 1990) and three relatively arid phases (1430–1500, 1620–1700 and 1900–1950) are discernable across the profiles. The recharge history broadly reflects multidecadal to centurial timescale precipitation changes in the northern Tibetan Plateau and suggests that variations in East Asian Summer Monsoon intensity affect desert recharge rates. Uncertainties in the records owing to assumptions about the Cl inputs are examined by comparing deterministic and stochastic Cl input scenarios.
Such records are valuable for assessing spatial aspects of climate changes in the region, as well as for informing sustainable water resource management strategies for northwestern China’s drylands.