Detailed grain-size analyses, both in China and western Europe, indicate the occurrence of short climatic cycles during loess deposition of the last glacial. Cold episodes coincided with enhanced deposition of relatively coarse loess and alternated with relatively warmer episodes with decreased deposition of finer loess and soil formation. In Europe, these oscillations may coincide with alternations of permafrost development and degradation. The short-term climatic events in the loess sections are similar to the Dansgaard - Oeschger events in ice-core records. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.