Isotopic evidence for the diversity of late quaternary loess in Nebraska: Glaciogenic and nonglaciogenic sources

John N. Aleinikoff*, Daniel R. Muhs, E. Arthur Bettis, William C. Johnson, C. Mark Fanning, Rachel Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    75 Citations (Scopus)


    Pb isotope compositions of detrital K-feldspars and U-Pb ages of detrital zircons are used as indicators for determining the sources of Peoria Loess deposited during the last glacial period (late Wisconsin, ca. 25-14 ka) in Nebraska and western Iowa. Our new data indicate that only loess adjacent to the Platte River has Pb isotopic characteristics suggesting derivation from this river. Most Peoria Loess in central Nebraska (up to 20 m thick) is non-glaciogenic, on the basis of Pb isotope ratios in K-feldspars and the presence of 34-Ma detrital zircons. These isotopic characteristics suggest derivation primarily from the Oligocene White River Group in southern South Dakota, western Nebraska, southeastern Wyoming, and northeastern Colorado. The occurrence of 10-25 Ma detrital zircons suggests additional minor contributions of silt from the Oligocene-Miocene Arikaree Group and Miocene Ogallala Group. Isotopic data from detrital K-feldspar and zircon grains from Peoria Loess deposits in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa suggest that the immediate source of this loess was alluvium of the Missouri River. We conclude that this silt probably is of glaciogenic origin, primarily derived from outwash from the western margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Identification of the White River Group as the main provenance of Peoria Loess of central Nebraska and the Missouri River valley as the immediate source of western Iowa Peoria Loess indicates that paleowind directions during the late Wisconsin were primarily from the northwest and west, in agreement with earlier studies of particle size and loess thickness variation. In addition, the results are in agreement with recent simulations of non-glaciogenic dust sources from linked climate-vegetation modeling, suggesting dry, windy, and minimally vegetated areas in parts of the Great Plains during the last glacial period.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1362-1377
    Number of pages16
    JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
    Issue number11-12
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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