Qaidam Basin and northern Tibetan Plateau as dust sources for the Chinese Loess Plateau and paleoclimatic implications

Alex Pullen, Paul Kapp, Andrew T. McCallister, Hong Chang, George E. Gehrels, Carmala N. Garzione, Richard V. Heermance, Lin Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

149 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Chinese Loess Plateau of central Asia is composed of interbedded loess and paleosol layers, deposited during glacial and interglacial cycles, respectively, during the past ~2.5 m.y. Understanding the provenance of loess is fundamental to reconstructing wind patterns during Quaternary glacial periods. We determined and compared U-Pb ages on zircon crystals from Loess Plateau strata and potential source areas. The results indicate that the loess was largely derived from the Qaidam Basin and the northern Tibetan Plateau to the west, both of which exhibit spatially extensive geomorphic landforms indicative of past (interpreted as pre-Holocene) wind erosion and/or defl ation by westerly winds. This challenges the current paradigm that the loess of the Chinese Loess Plateau was largely sourced from deserts located to the northwest, as observed in the modern interglacial climate. We propose that during glacial periods, the mean annual positions of the polar jet streams were shifted equatorward, resulting in more southerly tracks for dust-generating storms and suppression of the East Asian monsoon by inhibiting the subtropical jet from shifting northward across the Tibetan Plateau.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1034
Number of pages4
JournalGeology
Volume39
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology

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