A long dust history established using geological archives from dust provenance areas is necessary to understand the role of atmospheric dust in the global climate system better. Core sediments from a closed-basin groundwater-recharged lake in arid Central Asia were investigated using a multi-proxy approach (e.g. 14C AMS dating, pollen, and grain size) to trace the dust history since ~ 15 cal ka BP. Pollen analysis showed that before 7.9 cal ka BP, the vegetation was of desert type. After 7.9 cal ka BP, vegetation density increased, probably due to slightly increased moisture. The Chenopodiaceae-dominated desert expanded rapidly at 4.2–3.8 cal ka BP. Grain-size analysis was conducted for samples of lake deposits, modern aeolian dust, and dust trapped in snow, and the data showed that there was strong aeolian dust deposition at 11.8–11.1, 10.6–8, 6.1–4.9, and after 3.3 cal ka BP. This timing corresponds well with periods of increased terrestrial dust fluxes recorded by Greenland ice cores. Our study may document changes in the location and intensity of the Siberia High. These changes may play a more important role in the history of dust emission in arid Central Asia than previously thought.