Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 571–584 | Cite as

Clay mineralogy of an Eocene fluvial-lacustrine sequence in Xining Basin, Northwest China, and its paleoclimatic implications

  • Bin Hu
  • Chunxia ZhangEmail author
  • Haibing Wu
  • Qingzhen Hao
  • Zhengtang Guo
Research Paper


The Eocene was marked by significant cooling during which the global climate was transformed from greenhouse to icehouse conditions. Notable coeval events were the India-Asia collision and the retreat of the Paratethys Sea in Asia. The Eocene section of the long and continuous sedimentary succession of the Xining Basin in Northwest China is characterized by red mudstones with intercalated gypsum and muddy-gypsiferous layers. In this study, we conducted a semi-quantitative analysis of the mineralogy of bulk samples and the clay fraction using X-ray diffraction, with the aim of characterizing the Eocene climatic evolution of the northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau and inland Asia. We used a new pretreatment method to address the problem of extracting sufficient clay particles from the gypsum and gypsiferous layers. The bulk mineralogy is dominated by quartz, feldspar, calcite, gypsum and dolomite; and the clay mineralogy is dominated by illite, chlorite, and smectite (including irregular mixed-layer illite-smectite (I/S)). The variations of the clay mineral assemblages indicate the occurrence of alternations between warm humid conditions and hot dry conditions, with relatively high humidity during ~52–50, ~41.5–39 and ~35–34 Ma. Comparison of the results with the timing of Tibetan Plateau uplift, transgressions and regressions of the Paratethys Sea, and the marine oxygen isotope record suggest that the Eocene climatic evolution of the study region was driven fundamentally by global climate change.


Eocene Xining Basin Clay minerals Paleoclimate 


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We thank Dr. Pei Li, Dr. Yating Lin, Xiangbing Ren and Shuya Zhu for their help with field work. We also thank Dr. Abu Sayem, Dr. Wenling An and Dr. Xinbo Gao for their valuable suggestions during this study. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41722206, 41430531, 41690114 & 41374072), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB26000000) and the International Cooperation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. 131C11KYSB20160061).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bin Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chunxia Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Haibing Wu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Qingzhen Hao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Zhengtang Guo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Cenozoic Geology and Environment, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institution of Earth ScienceChinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Earth Science and EngineeringShandong University of Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina
  4. 4.CAS Center for Excellence in Life and PaleoenvironmentBeijingChina
  5. 5.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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