US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Muhs, D. R., Swinehart, J. B., Loope, D. B., Aleinikoff, J. N., and Been, J., 1999, 200,000 years of climate change recorded in eolian sediments of the High Plains of eastern Colorado and western Nebraska, in Lageson, D. R., Lester, A. P., and Trudgill, B. D., eds., Colorado and Adjacent Areas: Boulder, Colorado, Geological Society of America Field Guide 1.


U.S. government work


Loess and eolian sand cover vast areas of the western Great Plains of Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado (Fig. 1). In recent studies of Quaternary climate change, there has been a renewed interest in loess and eolian sand. Much of the attention now given to loess stems from new studies of long loess sequences that contain detailed records of Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles, thought to be a terrestrial equivalent to the foraminiferal oxygen isotope record in deep-sea sediments (Fig. 2). Loess is also a direct record of atmospheric circulation, and identification of loess paleowinds in the geologic record can test atmospheric general circulation models. Until recently, eolian sand on the Great Plains had received little attention from Quaternary geologists. The past decade has seen a proliferation of studies of Great Plains dune sands, and many studies, summarized below, indicate that landscapes characterized by eolian sand have had dynamic histories.

On this field trip, we will visit some key eolian sand and loess localities in eastern Colorado and southwestern Nebraska (Fig. 1). Stratigraphic studies at some of these localities have been conducted for more than 50 years, but others have been systematically studied only in the past few years. Many of the data which appear in this guidebook have been derived from previous studies (Swinehart and Diffendal, 1990; Madole, 1994; Loope and others, 1995; Maat and Johnson, 1996; Muhs and others, 1996, 1997a, 1999; Mason and others, 1997; Aleinikoff and others, 1999), but some are presented here for the first time.