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Taklimakan Desert Older Than Previous Estimates

The Taklimakan Desert, located in China's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the second largest desert in the world, could be 1.8 million years older than previously thought, Chinese scientists said Sunday.

Scientists say based on test samples of loess in a stratum from the Cenozoic Era on the southwest tip of Taklimakan near the Kunlun Mountains, the desert is 5.3 million years old.

Experts believe the loess must have been blown to the region by wind from the Taklimakan Desert, Sun Jimin, a researcher with the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said.

Chinese scientists have been studying the formation of the Taklimakan for decades but they have never reached a universally-accepted theory on when it was formed.

In 2002, a group of researchers from the Shanghai Tongji University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences concluded that the Taklimakan Desert was likely formed some 3.5 million years ago, after studying sediment and loess in the desert.

Sun said scientists reached different conclusions because they studied different locations in the desert. The stratum studied by the researchers of Shanghai Tongji University was 80 kilometers to the west of the region discovered by Sun's team.

Scientists believe that the study of the formation of the Taklimakan Desert will help them better understand how central Asia became so arid.

(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2007)

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