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In September 2016, the annual meeting of the International Union for Quaternary Research’s Loess and Pedostratigraphy Focus Group, traditionally referred to as a LoessFest, met in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA. The 2016 LoessFest focused on “thin” loess deposits and loess transportation surfaces. This LoessFest included 75 registered participants from 10 countries. Almost half of the participants were from outside the United States, and 18 of the participants were students. This review is the introduction to the special issue for Quaternary Research that originated from presentations and discussions at the 2016 LoessFest. This introduction highlights current understanding and ongoing work on loess in various regions of the world and provides brief summaries of some of the current approaches/strategies used to study loess deposits.
The chronology and cause of millennial depositional oscillations within last glacial loess of the Central Lowlands of the United States are uncertain. Here, we present a new age model that indicates the Peoria Silt along the Illinois River Valley accumulated episodically from ~28,500 to 16,000 cal yr BP, as the Lake Michigan Lobe margin fluctuated within northeastern Illinois. The age model indicates accelerated loess deposition coincident with regional glacial advances during the local last glacial maximum. A weakly developed paleosol, the Jules Geosol, represents a period of significantly slower deposition, from 23,700 to 22,000 cal yr BP. A gastropod assemblage-based reconstruction of mean July temperature shows temperatures 6–10°C cooler than modern during Peoria Silt deposition. Stable oxygen and carbon isotope values (δ18O and δ13C) of gastropod carbonate do not vary significantly across the pedostratigraphic boundary of the Jules Geosol, suggesting slower loess accumulation was a result of reduced glacial sediment supply rather than direct climatic factors. However, a decrease in δ18O values occurred between 26,000 and 24,000 cal yr BP, synchronous with the Lake Michigan Lobe’s southernmost advance. This δ18O decrease suggests a coupling of regional summer hydroclimate and ice lobe position during the late glacial period.
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