US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Quaternary Science Reviews 26 (2007) 2265–2280.


Well-preserved loess deposits are found on the foothills of mountains along the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River in southern Tibet. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating is used to determine loess ages by applying the single-aliquot regeneration technique. Geochemical, mineralogical, and granulometric measurements were carried out to allow a comparison between loess from Tibet and the Chinese Loess Plateau. Our results demonstrate that (i) the loess deposits have a basal age of 13–11 ka, suggesting they accumulated after the last deglaciation, (ii) loess in southern Tibet has a ‘‘glacial’’ origin, resulting from eolian sorting of glaciofluvial outwash deposits from braided river channels or alluvial fans by local near-surface winds, and (iii) the present loess in the interior of Tibet has accumulated since the last deglaciation when increased monsoonal circulation provided an increased vegetation cover that was sufficient for trapping eolian silt. The lack of full-glacial loess is either due to minimal vegetation cover or possibly due to the erosion of loess as glaciofluvial outwash during the beginning of each interglacial. Such processes would have been repeated during each glacial–interglacial cycle of the Quaternary.