Quaternary glacier development and the relationship between the climate change and tectonic uplift in the Helan Mountain


Isolated NE-SW stretching the Helan Mountain massif, separating the temperate grassland of the Ordos plateau from the Tenggeli Desert, is a key position of studying the glacier development in west China as well as the coupling conditions of climate change with tectonic uplift. The glacial landforms and deposits including cirques, peaks, knife-edge ridges, lateral moraines, and terminal moraines distribute above 2800 m a.s.l. in the middle part of the Helan Mountain. This distribution indicates that here was once glaciated during the late Quaternary. Morphology features show a clear sequence of landscape forming events took place throughout the Helan Mountain. Laboratory optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating (AMS 14C) results indicate a late history of glacial advance. Late Pleistocene glaciers in the middle part of the Helan Mountain advanced to near their positions at least four times, and the glacial sequences can be assigned as the middle stage of last glacial cycle (MIS3b, 43.2±4.0 ka), last glacial maximum (LGM, ∼18 ka), late glacial (12.0±1.1 ka) and neo-glacial (3.4±0.3 ka) respectively. Adopting equilibrium line altitude ∼2980 m of last glacial maximum and the modern theoretical snowline altitude ∼4724 m as the maximum amplitudes, and the standard marine isotope curve (MIS) as the glacial equilibrium line change since the Gonghe Movement (150 ka), the relationship between the mountain altitude and glacier development is discussed herein. Compared with other environmental indexes such as the loess-paleosol and ice core, conclusions are made that glacier advances in the Helan Mountain during the late Quaternary obviously depended on the coupled control of tectonic uplift of mountain with the climate condition. It is at last glaciation that the mountain reached the altitude above snowline and coupled with the glacial climate. The glacial advances occurred in the early and middle stages of last glacial cycle after the Gonghe Movement.


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Zhang, W., He, M., Li, Y. et al. Quaternary glacier development and the relationship between the climate change and tectonic uplift in the Helan Mountain. Chin. Sci. Bull. 57, 4491–4504 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11434-012-5283-z

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  • Helan Mountain
  • last glacial cycle
  • tectonic uplift
  • equilibrium line
  • glaciation