US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Muhs, D.R., 2013. Loess and its geomorphic, stratigraphic, and paleoclimatic significance in the Quaternary. In: Shroder, J. (Editor in Chief), Lancaster, N., Sherman, D.J., Baas, A.C.W. (Eds.), Treatise on Geomorphology. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, vol. 11, Aeolian Geomorphology, pp. 149–183.



U.S. government work


Loess is aeolian silt visible in the field as a sedimentary body. It covers a significant portion of the land surface of the Earth. Loess thickness, particle size, and carbonate content decrease downwind from sources, useful trends for paleowinds. Many loess sections consist of relatively thick deposits of mostly unaltered sediment with intercalated paleosols. Paleosols represent periods of landscape stability when loess deposition slowed significantly. Loess in most regions was deposited during glacial periods and paleosols formed during interglacial periods. Loess has the potential to record the timing and environment of glacial–interglacial cycles of the Quaternary on many continents.