Wind as the primary driver of erosion in the Qaidam Basin, China

Alexander Rohrmann, Richard Heermance, Paul Kapp, Fulong Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Deserts are a major source of loess and may undergo substantial wind-erosion as evidenced by yardang fields, deflation pans, and wind-scoured bedrock landscapes. However, there are few quantitative estimates of bedrock removal by wind abrasion and deflation. Here, we report wind-erosion rates in the western Qaidam Basin in central China based on measurements of cosmogenic 10Be in exhumed Miocene sedimentary bedrock. Sedimentary bedrock erosion rates range from 0.05 to 0.4mm/yr, although the majority of measurements cluster at 0.125±0.05mm/yr. These results, combined with previous work, indicate that strong winds, hyper-aridity, exposure of friable Neogene strata, and ongoing rock deformation and uplift in the western Qaidam Basin have created an environment where wind, instead of water, is the dominant agent of erosion and sediment transport. Its geographic location (upwind) combined with volumetric estimates suggest that the Qaidam Basin is a major source (up to 50%) of dust to the Chinese Loess Plateau to the east. The cosmogenically derived wind erosion rates are within the range of erosion rates determined from glacial and fluvial dominated landscapes worldwide, exemplifying the effectiveness of wind to erode and transport significant quantities of bedrock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Jul 5 2013


  • Asia
  • Chinese Loess Plateau
  • Climate
  • Cosmogenic nuclide-dating
  • Earth surface processes
  • Wind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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