Red clay sediment in the central Chinese Loess Plateau and its implication for the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau

  • Song Yougui Email author
  • Li Jijun 
  • Fang Xiaomin 
  • Xia Fei 
  • Dong Hongmei 


The widely distributed red clay sediment underlying the Chinese Loess Plateau truly records the Neogene environmental evolution, and its genesis and development are intrinsically related to the uplift processes of the Tibetan Plateau and the evolution of East Asia monsoon system. In this paper, a detailed magnetostratigraphy of a loess-red clay section (107°13′E, 35°02′N) from the central Loess Plateau is reported. The loess-red clay sequence is composed of 175 m Quaternary loess-paleosol sequence and 128 m Neogene red clay sediments. Based on the correlation with the standard geomagnetic polarity time scale, the paleomagnetic results indicate that the age of Chaona red clay sequence extends to 8.1 Ma, which is the older red clay deposition in the central Chinese Loess Plateau. The commencement of red clay at ∼8.1 Ma may imply that the Ordos planation surface was broken by the movement of the Haiyuan-Liupanshan Faults, which was related to the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau induced by the collision of India Plate and Eurasian Plate. And the western part adjacent to the Tibetan Plateau was uplifted to form the embryo of the Liupan Shan (Mts.) and the eastern part was down-faulted to receive red clay deposition. We link this faulting to an initial uplift of the Tibetan Plateau. The undulating nature of the broken Ordos planation surface may explain the chronological differences and depth discrepancies among various cross-sections of red clay.

Key Words

Loess-paleosol red clay sequence magnetostratigraphy planation surface geological significance 


  1. AN Z S, Kutzbach J. E., Prell W. L., Porter S. C. 2001. Evolution of Asian monsoon and phased uplift of the Himalayas-Tibetan plateau since late Miocene times.Nature 411: 62–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. AN Z S, LIU T S, LU Y C, Porter S. C., Kukla G., WU X H, HUA Y M. 1990. The long-term paleomonsoon variation recorded by the loess-paleosol sequence in Central China.Quaternary International 7/8: 91–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. AN Z S, WANG S M, WU X H, CHENG M Y, SUN D H, LIU X M, WANG F B, LI L, SUN Y B, ZHOU W J, ZHOU J, LIU X D, LU H Y, ZHANG Y X, DONG G R and QIANG X K. 1999. Eolian evidence from the Chinese Loess Plateau: the onset of the late Cenozoic Great Glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere and Qinghai-Xizang Plateau uplift forcing,Science in China (Series D) 42(3): 259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burbank, W. D., Louis A. D., 1993 Christian F L. Reduced Himalayan sediment production 8 Myr. Ago despite and intensified monsoon.Nature 364: 48–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cande S. C., Kent D. V. 1995. Revised calibration of the geomagnetic polarity timescale for the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic.Journal of Geophysical Research 100(B4): 6093–6095CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DING Z L, SUN J M, LIU T S, ZHU R X, YANG S L, and GUO B. 1998. Wind-blown origin of the Pliocene red clay formation in central Loess Plateau, China.Earth and Planetary Science Letters 161: 135–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DING Z L, Rutter N., HAN J M, LIU T S, 1992. A coupled environmental system formed at about 2.5 Ma in East Asia.Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 94: 223–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. DING Z L, XIONG X F, SUN J M, YANG S L, GU Z Y and LIU T S. 1999. Pedostratigraphy and paleomagnetism of a ∼7.0 Ma eolian loess-red clay sequence at Lingtai, Loess Plateau, north-central China and the implications for paleomonsoon evolution.Palaeogeography, Palaeochmatology, Palaeoecology 152: 49–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Evans M. E., WANG Y, Rutter N. W., DING Z. L. 1991. Preliminary magnetostratigraphy of the red clay underlying the loess sequences at Baoji, China.Geophysical Research Letters 18: 1409–1412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. GUO Z T, PENG S Z, HAO Q Z, Biscaye P. E., LIU T S, 2001, Origin of the Miocene-Pliocene red earth formation at Xifeng in Northern China and implications for paleoenvironments.Palaeography, Palaeclimatology, Palaeoecology 170: 11–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. GUO Z T, PENG S. Z HAO Q Z, Biscaye P. E., AN Z S and LIU T S. 2004. Late Miocene — Pliocene development of Asian aridification as recorded in the Red-Earth Formation in northern China.Global and Planetary Change 41(3–4): 135–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. GUO Z T, Ruddiman W. F., HAO Q Z, WU H B, QIAO Y S, ZHU R X, PENG S Z, WEI J J, YUAN BY, LIU T S. 2002. Onset of Asian desertification by 22 Myr ago inferred from loess deposits in China.Nature 416: 159–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harrison T. M., Copeland P., Kidd W. S., and Yin A. 1992. Raising Tibet.Science 255: 1663–1670CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. HUANG J. C. 1979.The geotectonic evolution of China (In Chinese). Beijing, China: Chinese Science Press, Pp 80Google Scholar
  15. Kuhle M., 2002. A relief-specific model of the ice age on the basis of uplift-controlled glacier areas in Tibet and the corresponding albedo increase as well as their positive climatological feedback by means of the global radiation geometry.Climate Research 20: 1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. LI J Jet al. (unnamed). 1995.Uplift of Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) Plateau and Global Change. Lanzhou, China: Lanzhou Univ. Press, Pp 210Google Scholar
  17. LIU T Set al. (unnamed). 1985.Loess and the environment. Beijing, China: China Ocean Press. Pp 149–226Google Scholar
  18. LIU X M, Tim Rolph, AN Z S and Hesse P. 2003. Paleoclimatic significance of magnetic properties on the Red Clay underlying the loess and paleosols in China.Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 199(1–2): 153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. MIAO X D, SUN Y B, LU H Y and Mason J. A. 2004. Spatial pattern of grain size in the Late Pliocene ‘Red Clay’ deposits (North China) indicates transport by low-level northerly winds.Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 206(1–2): 149–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. MO, D W, Derbyshire E. 1991. The depositional environment o f the Late Pliocene ‘Red Clay’, Jing-le Basin, Shanxi Province, China.Sedimentary Geology 70: 33–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. QIANG X K, LI Z X, Powell C. McA and ZHENG H B. 2001. Magnetostratigraphic record of the Late Miocene onset of the East Asia Monsoon, and Pliocene uplift of northern Tibet.Earth and planetary Science Letter 187(1–2): 83–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Quade J., Roe L., Decells P. G., Ojha T. P. 1997. The late Neogene87Sr/86Sr record of lowland Himalayan rivers.Science 276: 1828–1831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rea D K, Snoeckx H, and Joseph I H., 1998. Late Cenozoic eolian deposition in the North Pacific, Asian drying, Tibetan uplift, and cooling of the northern hemisphere.Paleoceanography 13: 215–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. SONG Y G, FANG X M, LI J J, AN Z S and MIAO X D. 2001. The late Cenozoic uplift of Liupan Shan, China.Science in China (Series D) 44(supp.): 176–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. SUN D H, Shaw Jan Z S, CHENG M Y, Bloemendal J, and SUN Y B. 1998. Magnetostratigraphy and paleomagnetic interpretation of continuous 7.2 Ma Late Cenozoic eolian sediments from the Chinese Loess Plateau.Geophysical Research Letters 25: 85–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. SUN D H. 2004. Monsoon and westerly circulation changes recorded in the late Cenozoic aeolian sequences of Northern China.Global and Planetary Change 41(1): 63–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. SUN, D H, LIU T S, CHENG M Y, AN Z S. 1997. Magnetostratigraphy and paleoclimate of red clay sequences from the Chinese Loess Plateau.Science in China (Series D) 40: 337–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. SUN Y B, AN Z S 2002. History and variability of Asian interior aridity recorded by eolian flux in the Chinese Loess Plateau during the past 7 Ma.Science in China (Series D) 45(5): 420–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vandenberghe J., LU H Y, SUN D H, J. van Huissteden and M Konert. 2004. The late Miocene and Pliocene climate in East Asia as recorded by grain size and magnetic susceptibility of the Red Clay deposits (Chinese Loess Plateau).Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 204(3–4): 239–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. YANG J C. 1993.The Characteristic and evolution of landform in China, Beijing (In Chinese). Beijing, China: Chinese Ocean press, Pp 132–134Google Scholar
  31. ZHENG, H B, Powell C. M., Rea D. K. 2004. Late Miocene and mid-Pliocene enhancement of the East Asian monsoon as viewed from the land and sea.Global and Planetary Change 41(3–4): 147–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Institute of Moutain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Science Press 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Song Yougui 
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Li Jijun 
    • 2
  • Fang Xiaomin 
    • 2
  • Xia Fei 
    • 3
  • Dong Hongmei 
    • 4
  1. 1.State Key laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXi’anChina
  2. 2.MOE National Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems & Department of GeographyLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of GeosciencesEast China Institute of TechnologyFuzhouChina
  4. 4.Xi’an University of Science and TechnologyXi’anChina

Personalised recommendations