Determining the climatic boundary between the Chinese loess and palaeosol: Evidence from aeolian coarse-grained magnetite

Qingsong Liu, Subir K. Banerjee, Michael J. Jackson, Fahu Chen, Yongxin Pan, Rixiang Zhu

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This paper proposes a new method to distinguish between interglacial deposits and pedogenically-overprinted glacial loess based on the concentration variations of coarse-grained aeolian (magnetically pseudo-single domain and multidomain) magnetite. We apply the method to a sequence from the upper part of the loess unit L2 (marine isotope stage MIS 6) to the sub-loess unit SIL2 (MIS 5d) at the YuanBo (YB) section in the Chinese Loess Plateau. The method is based on the differences in low temperature properties between the coarse-grained (multidomain and pseudo-single domain) detrital magnetite and the pedogenic magnetic particles including superparamagnetic (SP) particles and relatively larger (> SP) maghemite particles. The former is characterized by a crystallographic Verwey transition around 120 K. In contrast, the magnetization of the latter continuously decreases in intensity with increasing temperatures. The method involves two steps: (1) calculating the first-derivative of the low temperature thermal demagnetization of the saturated isothermal remanent magnetization acquired at 20 K (LT-SIRM), which enhances the behaviour related to the Verwey transition, and (2) fitting a third-order polynomial background to the data between both 50-70 and 150-300 K, and then subtracting this background from the total derivative curves. The area under the background-corrected derivative curves represents the absolute intensity drop associated with the Verwey transition (ΔJTV). This is caused by the aeolian coarse-grained magnetite, which is very sensitive to the changes in the intensity of the winter monsoon, and in turn related to the changes in palaeoclimate. The results show that the sharp drop of ΔJTV at 39.44 m corresponds to the climatic boundary from L2 (MIS 6) to S1S3 (MIS 5e), and not at 39.8 m as thought previously. Thus, the palaeosol deposits just below this boundary are in fact highly altered L2 materials instead of S1S3 accumulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-274
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Aeolian
  • Chinese loess
  • Low-temperature properties
  • Pedogenesis


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