Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 715–727 | Cite as

Loess Thickness Variations Across the Loess Plateau of China

  • Yuanjun Zhu
  • Xiaoxu Jia
  • Mingan Shao


The soil thickness is very important for investigating and modeling soil-water processes, especially on the Loess Plateau of China with its deep loess deposit and limited water resources. A digital elevation map (DEM) of the Loess Plateau and neighborhood analysis in ArcGIS software were used to generate a map of loess thickness, which was then validated by 162 observations across the plateau. The generated loess thickness map has a high resolution of 100 m × 100 m. The map indicates that loess is thick in the central part of the plateau and becomes gradually shallower in the southeast and northwest directions. The areas near mountains and river basins have the shallowest loess deposit. The mean loess thickness is the deepest in the zones with 400–600-mm precipitation and decreases gradually as precipitation varies beyond this range. Our validation indicates that the map just slightly overestimates loess thickness and is reliable. The loess thickness is mostly between 0 and 350 m in the Loess Plateau region. The calculated mean loess thickness is 105.7 m, with the calibrated value being 92.2 m over the plateau exclusive of the mountain areas. Our findings provide very basic data of loess thickness and demonstrate great progress in mapping the loess thickness distribution for the plateau, which are valuable for a better study of soil-water processes and for more accurate estimations of soil water, carbon, and solute reservoirs in the Loess Plateau of China.


Soil thickness Loess Digital elevation map (DEM) Neighborhood analysis The Loess Plateau 



This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41571130081 and 41530854), the Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KFZD-SW-306), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0501706-03), and the Youth Innovation Research Team Project (LENOM2016Q0001). We thank the Editor in Chief and the reviewers for their assistance which has improved this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess PlateauNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationChinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water ResourcesYanglingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.College of Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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