Sources and paleoclimatic significance of Holocene Bignell Loess, central Great Plains, USA

Joseph A. Mason, Peter M. Jacobs, Paul R. Hanson, Xiaodong Miao, Ronald J. Goble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reexamines the stratigraphy, sources, and paleoclimatic significance of Holocene Bignell Loess in the central Great Plains. A broadly similar sequence of loess depositional units and paleosols was observed in thick Bignell Loess sections up to 300 km apart, suggesting that these sections record major regional changes in the balance between dust deposition and pedogenesis. New optical ages, together with previously reported radiocarbon ages, indicate Bignell Loess deposition began 9000-11,000 yr ago and continued into the late Holocene; some Bignell Loess is <1000 yr old. There is little evidence that Holocene Loess was derived from flood plain sources, as previously proposed. Instead, thick Bignell Loess occurs mainly near the downwind margins of inactive dune fields, particularly atop escarpments facing the dunes. Thus, the immediate loess source was dust produced when the dunes were active. Previous work indicates that widespread episodes of dune activity are likely to have resulted from drier-than-present climatic conditions. The regionally coherent stratigraphy of Bignell Loess can be interpreted as a near-continuous record of climatically driven variation in dune field activity throughout the Holocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-339
Number of pages10
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Bignell Loess
  • Great Plains
  • Holocene
  • Loess
  • Paleoclimate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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