Abstract

The Asian interior has the largest mid-latitude arid zone in the Northern Hemisphere, and so has become increasingly attractive for studying the initiation and the past extent of aridification in this zone. Given the enormousness of the Asian interior, it remains unclear how old and extensive the eolian deposits might have been, and what wind regimes have been responsible for the formation of the mid-latitude arid zone. Here we report new eolian records of widespread Tertiary eolian deposits in a region far from the Chinese Loess Plateau, the giant Junggar inland basin of northwestern China. Our results demonstrate that the earliest eolian deposition initiated ca. 24 Ma. We interpret that the Tertiary eolian dust in the Junggar Basin was transported by westerly winds, possibly from areas in Kazakhstan; the dust differs from the airborne dust transported by winter monsoon winds from the deserts of Mongolia and northern China that accumulated on the Loess Plateau. These results further reveal that the climate pattern, similar to that of the present, has prevailed at least since the latest Oligocene in Central Asia.

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