Along with intensification of global warming, severe desertification has already impaired human sustainable development. In a near-future greenhouse world, the total area of desert will increase, and new types of desert may emerge. During the “greenhouse” Cretaceous, conventional large paleo-ergs developed in broad topographic basins, and many possible ergs developed in small-scale intermountain basins, which are unusual in near-modern times and less studied. A comprehensive study of their sedimentary architecture and mechanisms would refine our interpretation of desertification in a near-future “greenhouse” world. The Xinjiang Basin is a typical small-scale intermountain basin in Southeast China that formed >300 m of successive aeolian deposits during the early Late Cretaceous. In this study, we applied detailed facies and architecture analyses to the Tangbian Formation (K2t) in 16 outcrops throughout the Xinjiang Basin and reconstructed a three-dimensional sedimentary model for the intermountain ergs. We confirmed that the Tangbian Formation formed in a typical intermountain paleo-erg and summarized in detail the differences in sedimentary architecture between intermountain ergs and broad topographic ergs. We noticed that the “greenhouse” state during the Late Cretaceous seems to have been suitable for the development of ergs in intermountain basins due to the hot, arid climate conditions and penetrating winds with sufficient transport capacity. Therefore, we suggest that in addition to the ongoing expansion of broad topographic ergs, the emergence and development of intermountain ergs in a near-future “greenhouse” world would also contribute to global desert expansion and massive desertification.

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