Frontiers of Earth Science

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 134–147 | Cite as

Clay mineralogy and its palaeoclimatic significance in the Luochuan loess-palaeosols over ∼1.3 Ma, Shaanxi, northwestern China

  • Changdok Won
  • Hanlie Hong
  • Feng Cheng
  • Qian Fang
  • Chaowen Wang
  • Lulu Zhao
  • Gordon Jock Churchman
Research Article


To understand climate changes recorded in the Luochuan loess-palaeosols, Shaanxi province, northwestern China, clay mineralogy was studied using X-ray diffraction (XRD), high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) methods. XRD results show that clay mineral compositions in the Luochuan loess-palaeosols are dominantly illite, with minor chlorite, kaolinite, smectite, and illite-smectite mixed-layer clays (I/S). Illite is the most abundant species in the sediments, with a content of 61%–83%. The content of chlorite ranges from 5%–22%, and the content of kaolinite ranges from 5%–19%. Smectite (or I/S) occurs discontinuously along the loess profile, with a content of 0–8%. The Kübler index of illite (IC) ranges from 0.255°–0.491°, and the illite chemical index (ICI) ranges from 0.294–0.394. The CIA values of the loesspalaeosols are 61.9–69.02, and the R3+/(R3+ + R2+ + M+) values are 0.508–0.589. HRTEM observations show that transformation of illite to illite-smectite has occurred in both the loess and palaeosol, suggesting that the Luochuan loess-palaeosols have experienced a certain degree of chemical weathering. The Luochuan loess-palaeosols have the same clay mineral assemblage along the profile. However, the relative contents of clay mineral species, CIA, ICI, and IC values fluctuate frequently along the profile, and all these parameters display a similar trend. Moreover, climate changes suggested by the clay index are consistent with variations in the deep-sea δ18O records and the magnetic susceptibility value, and thus, climate changes in the Luochuan region have been controlled by global climate change.


clay minerals weathering palaeoclimate Luochuan loess-palaeosols 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41272053 and 41472041). C.W. acknowledges a postdoctoral science foundation of China (2015M582301), Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), and National Natural Science Youth Foundation of China (Grant No. 41602037). The authors wish to thank Dr. Yu J. S. for XRD analysis, Dr. Liu X.W. for HRTEM analysis and Dr. Yang H. and Dr. Yang Q. for SEM analysis.


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Changdok Won
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hanlie Hong
    • 1
    • 3
  • Feng Cheng
    • 1
  • Qian Fang
    • 1
  • Chaowen Wang
    • 4
  • Lulu Zhao
    • 1
  • Gordon Jock Churchman
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Earth SciencesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.Kim Chaek University of TechnologyPyongyangKorea
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental GeologyChina University of Geosciences (Wuhan)WuhanChina
  4. 4.Gemological InstituteChina University of Geosciences (Wuhan)WuhanChina
  5. 5.School of Agriculture, Food and WineThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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