Geochemical indicator of original eolian grain size and implications on winter monsoon evolution
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Grain size of eolian deposits from the Loess Plateau in China has been widely used to reconstruct the history of the East Asian winter monsoon. However, the grain size of bulk samples is only partially indicative to the strength of the winter monsoon because post-depositional weathering processes have significantly changed the grain size of original eolian particles. Here, non-weathered loess samples were separated into eight different particle fractions, and major chemical elements were determined in order to establish a geochemical indicator of original eolian grain size. The results show that SiO2 and Al2O3 contents and the SiO2/Al2O3 ratio in different fractions vary regularly with grain size, and that a good linear relation exists between the SiO2/Al2O3 ratio and grain size for the fractions <50 μm. Because Al and Si are among the most stable elements and pedogenic processes in the Loess Plateau cannot affect the SiO2/Al2O3 ratio, this index can be used to reflect the grain size of original eolian particles. Application of this index in the Weinan and Luochuan loess sections of the last climatic cycle shows that SiO2/Al2O3 is in good agreement with median grain size (Md) in the loess units. On the contrary, SiO2/Al2O3 has documented a series of fluctuations in the soil units that are not clearly indicated by the grain-size changes of bulk samples.
KeywordsSiO2/Al2O3 ratio grain size loess-paleosol sequence winter monsoon
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