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Quaternary dust source variation across the Chinese Loess Plateau

Bird, Anna; Stevens, Thomas; Rittner, Martin; Vermeesch, Pieter; Carter, Andrew; Andò, Sergio; Garzanti, Eduardo; Lu, Huayu; Nie, Junsheng; Zeng, Lin; Zhang, Hanzhi; Xu, Zhiwei


Thomas Stevens

Martin Rittner

Pieter Vermeesch

Andrew Carter

Sergio Andò

Eduardo Garzanti

Huayu Lu

Junsheng Nie

Lin Zeng

Hanzhi Zhang

Zhiwei Xu


The Chinese Loess Plateau in north central China contains one of the most valuable Cenozoic climate archives on land. Establishing the origin of this substantial archive of aeolian sediments is critical for the interpretation of loess climate proxies, past atmospheric wind patterns and changing climatic/tectonic controls on erosion over potentially the past 25 Ma. Despite this significance there are a number of disagreements over the precise source areas and the extent to which these vary through time and across the plateau. To address this, we utilize a multi-technique, approach of combined detrital single-grain zircon U–Pb dating and heavy mineral analysis to establish the sources of loess through the Quaternary and constrain their variation geographically across the Loess Plateau. We combine our data with suitable published single-grain datasets from loess and possible source regions. The results demonstrate a dramatic spatial heterogeneity of dust sources across the plateau. Sites to the west of the Loess Plateau show strong affinity to the Yellow River and the northern Tibetan Plateau, while further east the influence of North-China-Craton-derived material becomes more significant (Fig. 1). This spatial variability in source implies a far more complex relationship to dust sources than previously envisioned. The provenance of loess/soil units also varies through time, although there is no consistent relationship between these shifts and changing glacial/interglacial periods, as hypothesized previously. This variation demonstrates highly dynamic and variable dust sources and transport modes that are influenced by abrupt climate shifts within individual glacial–interglacial episodes, and potentially the dynamics of the Yellow River system.


Bird, A., Stevens, T., Rittner, M., Vermeesch, P., Carter, A., Andò, S., …Xu, Z. (2015). Quaternary dust source variation across the Chinese Loess Plateau. Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology, 435, 254-264.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 19, 2015
Online Publication Date Jun 26, 2015
Publication Date Oct 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jul 31, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology
Print ISSN 0031-0182
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 435
Pages 254-264
Keywords Chinese Loess Plateau, Loess, Quaternary, Provenance
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology, 2015, v.435, at


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