Rock magnetic signature of a Miocene playa cycle in Central Asia and environmental implications

  • Verena VerestekEmail author
  • Erwin Appel
  • Konstantin Frisch
  • Silke Voigt
Original Paper


The increased aridification of Central Asia during the Miocene coincides in time with lake formations and the evolution of playa environments in the region. However, Miocene continental climate dynamics and the forcing of aridification are still not well constrained. Neogene lacustrine mudflat deposits in the Ili Basin in southeast Kazakhstan provide a well-exposed paleoclimate archive. Here, we present a detailed rock magnetic study of a middle Miocene playa cycle deposited in a closed basin. We use high-resolution rock magnetic parameters, lithological studies and geochemistry to reconstruct the playa environment and the depositional conditions. The rock magnetic mineralogy of the playa cycle is controlled by hematite and two fine-grained magnetite phases. Increased magnetic concentrations occur during dry mudflat conditions, with a lower groundwater table and increased aridity. The underlying processes controlling the observed variation in magnetic concentrations are a complex interplay of diagenetic processes during and after deposition. The data support an authigenic origin of both magnetite phases, one formed before and the other after sediment consolidation. Early diagenetic formation of fine-grained magnetite by microbial activity is followed by post-depositional formation of a secondary fine-grained magnetite phase. The rock magnetic results such as magnetic concentration-dependent parameters, ARM/SIRM and s-ratio indicate a sensitive record of (ground) water availability and aridity changes in the Ili Basin. We suggest that they can serve as an effective proxy for detailed paleo-environment reconstruction of playa evolution, not only in the middle Miocene Ili Basin but also in comparable floodplain/playa lake settings.


Rock magnetism Paleoclimate Playa Central Asia 



We wish to thank the administration and rangers of the State National Park Altyn Emel for providing access to the Aktau Mountains, and gratefully acknowledge Konstantin Kossov and Julia Zhilkina for their support in the field. We thank Christoph Geiss and Jaume Dinarès-Turell for their thoughtful comments that improved this manuscript. This study was financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG grant AP 34/41-1 and VO 687/16-1).


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© Geologische Vereinigung e.V. (GV) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesUniversity TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of GeosciencesGoethe University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany

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