Quaternary glaciations in western China: A review of the chronologies established by absolute dating

Yanan Li, Ping Fu, Renrong Chen, Yingkui Li

Research output: Journal PublicationReview articlepeer-review


Quaternary glaciations in western China have been investigated over the last century with the emphasis on the Tibetan Plateau and its adjacent regions. Earlier studies were mainly based on field observation and interpretation of geomorphic landforms and processes to identify and define past glacial sequences. The advent of absolute dating techniques, such as optically stimulated luminescence dating and cosmogenic radionuclide exposure dating, has revolutionized glacial chronological research in recent decades. Glacial chronologies have been established across various mountains, providing evidence to reject the Tibetan ice sheet hypothesis. Glacial advances generally occurred synchronously in this region, but the detailed timing, extent, and form of past glaciers vary at different locations. This review presents recent progress and challenges on reconstructing the timing and extent of Quaternary glaciations in western China, seeking to promote further studies and a broader interest from the physical geography community in this critical region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-826
Number of pages19
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Quaternary glaciation
  • Tibetan Plateau
  • absolute dating
  • glacial chronology
  • western China

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (all)


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