The role of the Nile in initiating a massive dust influx to the Negev late in the middle Pleistocene

Rivka Amit*, Yehouda Enzel, Onn Crouvi, Ori Simhai, Ari Matmon, Naomi Porat, Eric McDonald, Alan R. Gillespie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The late middle Pleistocene initiation of loess accretion in the Negev Desert, Israel, resulted from a chain of events starting with the exposure of shallow offshore Nile delta sands beginning ~180 ka, during a period of glacially lowered eustatic sea level. This exposure allowed the formation of the dunes of the Sinai-Negev erg and the eastward movement of the dunes under the gusty glacial-time winds in northern Sinai. This eastward dune advance occurred by eolian saltation that generated the coarse silts that accumulated downwind as loess. We postulate that the absence of earlier Negev loess is not a result of interglacial erosion as previously proposed but is due to the relatively recent convergence of the above conditions necessary for loess formation. We based our interpretation on analyses of two long-term natural dust traps and the association of coarse quartz silt production with the advancing quartz-rich dunes over this carbonate terrain. The Nile delta is considered to be an early to middle Pleistocene feature, and therefore could have been the source of sand throughout the Quaternary. However, it was under the waters of the Mediterranean most of the time, and only exposed from marine oxygen isotope stage 7 to early stage 6. In Quaternary times prior to erg formation, Negev dust was finer, composed of silt and clays derived from distal sources in the Sahara and Arabian deserts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)873-889
Number of pages17
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


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