Quaternary permafrost in china: Framework and discussions

Huijun Jin*, Jef Vandenberghe, Dongliang Luo, Stuart A. Harris, Ruixia He, Xuemei Chen, Xiaoying Jin, Qingfeng Wang, Ze Zhang, Valentin Spektor, Qingbai Wu, Shaoling Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The framework of Quaternary permafrost in China was reconstructed for the first time on the basis of available periglacial, glacial, and other proxies. During the Early Pleistocene (2.68–0.80 Ma BP), permafrost advanced southwards to 47–50 N in northern China and possibly occurred in alpine regions in western China. During the Middle Pleistocene (800–130 ka BP), permafrost occurred extensively on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) and in alpine or mountainous regions of northern, western, central, and northeastern China. The Great Interglacial occurred afterward and before the Last Glaciation, but the evidence of permafrost for this period has been seldom found. Permafrost evolution of the Last Glaciation (72–19 ka BP) in China is divided into: Expansion (72~50 ka BP), degradation (50–26 ka BP), and intensive expansion during the Last Permafrost Maximum (LPMax, 26–19 ka BP) with a permafrost extent of 5.3 × 106~5.4 × 106 km2, and when major features of present permafrost took shape. Permafrost fluctuated during the Younger Dryas (12.9–11.7 ka BP). Since the Holocene, permafrost in China expanded and retreated to lesser extents, forming the current permafrost environment. The Holocene evolution of permafrost was divided into: Unstable climate but stable permafrost during the early Holocene (11.7~8.5–7.0 ka BP); permafrost degradation during the Last Permafrost Minimum (LPMin, or the Holocene Megathermal; 8.5–7.0~4.0–3.0 ka BP) and the Medieval Warm Period (MWP; 1.0~0.5 ka BP); permafrost expansion during the Neoglaciation (4.0–3.0~1.0 ka BP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA; 0.5~0.1 ka BP); and recent permafrost degradation (20th century to the present). However, this review paper only provides the framework of Quaternary permafrost in China and some preliminary discussions. Many key questions await further investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
Issue number4
Early online date8 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research work was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Grant No. 41811530093) and Russian Federation Bureau of Research (RFBR) (Grant No. 18-55-53054) on Formation, the modern state of Pleistocene cryogenic deposits in Eastern Asia, and forecast of their dynamics in relation to the ongoing climatic variations, Key Programs of the International Cooperation Department of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on “Changing permafrost in China, Russia and Mongolia and its impacts on key engineered infrastructures”, and; CAS Strategic Pilot Science and Technology Project Permafrost in China during the Holocene Megathermal Period and Last Glaciation Maximum (Grant No. XDA05120302).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • China
  • Climate changes
  • Periglacial remains
  • Permafrost evolution
  • Permafrost extent


Dive into the research topics of 'Quaternary permafrost in china: Framework and discussions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this