Neogene aridification and lake development in the Issyk-Kul basin, Kyrgyzstan

Anna Kudriavtseva, Edward R. Sobel, Alexandru T. Codilean, Maud J.M. Meijers, Andreas Mulch, Gregory D. Hoke, David Fink, Alexander V. Mikolaichuk, Réka H. Fülöp, Klaus M. Wilcken, T. Gabriel Enge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Uplift of the Tian Shan range modified regional climate during Cenozoic aridification in Central Asia. This study presents facies analyses and Neogene oxygen and carbon isotopic records from magnetostratigraphically dated terrestrial sedimentary sections on the southern side of the intermontane Issyk-Kul basin in the Kyrgyz Tian Shan and 26Al/10Be isochron burial ages from the southern and eastern sides of the basin. The δ18O and δ13C data show a positive ca. 2‰ shift in values between ca. 8 and 7 Ma and a change from a negative to a positive trend. This change is attributed to the upwind growth of the Kyrgyz, Kungey and Trans Ili (Zaili) ranges, which diverted the westerlies, thereby changing the Issyk-Kul basin from a windward to a leeward position, enhancing aridification and establishing the modern-day spring and summer precipitation regime within the basin. Two 4 to 5 Ma 26Al/10Be isochron burial ages constrain the onset of Sharpyl Dak deposition on the eastern side of the basin; southward paleocurrent directions there suggest the eastward growth of the Kungey range in the Pliocene. Increased subsidence on the southern side of the basin and local tectonically induced river system reorganization led to the commencement of lake formation at ca. 5 Ma, followed by a ca. 2 Ma local depositional hiatus. The transition from sandstones of the Chu sedimentary group to conglomerates of the Sharpyl Dak group, marking a change from fluvial-alluvial deposits to a proximal alluvial fan, is dated at 2.6–2.8 Ma by 26Al/10Be isochron burial dating on the southern side of the basin, driven either by tectonics or Northern Hemisphere glaciation. This study concludes that the late Miocene–Pliocene northward growth of Tian Shan significantly altered environmental conditions within the range, preventing the moisture-bearing westerlies from reaching the intermontane Issyk-Kul basin and promoting lake formation and expansion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1193-1227
Number of pages35
JournalBasin Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Cenozoic aridification
  • Central Asia
  • cosmogenic Al/Be
  • tectonic uplift
  • westerlies
  • δO and δC stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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