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This paper presents a new approach to the analysis of the genetic nature of the mineral substance of loessial rocks. At the present time, the prevailing view on this issue is the eolian accumulation of loess, while the influence of other factors of formation has not been practically taken into account. However, loess accumulation can be explained by other mechanisms, e.g., active processes of cryogenic weathering under a very harsh climate. The latter concept is based on the results of analysis of wedge-shaped structures in loess thickness, as well as numerous data of spore-pollen, microfaunistic, and other types of analysis. Further developing concepts of loess formation, the authors made an attempt to assess the degree of influence of cryogenic processes on the composition and structure of loess. The proposed method is based on a differentiated analysis of the distribution of the main rock-forming minerals (quartz and feldspars) along the granulometric spectrum. Two criteria are proposed − the coefficient of cryogenic contrast and the heavy fraction coefficient (i.e., the coefficient of distribution of heavy minerals) − which allow determining the degree of participation of cryogenic processes, as well as aeolian and aqueous sedimentation, in the formation of loessial rocks. This method was used to study two sections of loessial thickness − in the south of the Russian Plain and within the Loess Plateau of China. The results of the study revealed the role of cryogenic factors in the formation of the composition of the loess horizons of soil-loess sequences of different territories. Particularly clearly the effect of cryogenesis was manifested in the loess section in the south of the Russian Plain. In the section of the Loess Plateau, only the youngest deposits of the last formation stage are affected by cryogenesis. It follows that not only within the long-term periglacial permafrost zone, but also under the conditions of seasonal freezing in the Pleistocene, the processes of cryogenic transformation of deposits could have developed, which contributed to the formation of the composition and properties of loess of sufficiently high thickness.

About the Authors

V. N. Konishchev
Lomonosov Moscow State University
Russian Federation
Professor, D.Sc. in Geography is the Head of the Department of Cryolithology and Glaciology of the MSU Faculty of Geography. His scientific interests are the Earth’s cryology, geographical and historic permafrost studies, cryolithology, paleogeography and geoecology of the cryosphere.

V. V. Rogov
Lomonosov Moscow State University; Earth Cryosphere Institute, SB RAS; Tyumen State University
Russian Federation
D.Sc. in Geography, is Professor of the Department of Cryolithology and Glaciology of the MSU Faculty of Geography. His research deals with the Earth’s cryology, paleogeography of the cryosphere, permafrost formation, cryogenic processes, physics of frozen grounds, authigenic mineral formation in frozen grounds, microbiology of permafrost


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