The history of dust emission and eolian activity in dust source areas remains unclear due to the scarcity of geological archives. Grain-size data from Genggahai Lake on the northeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau show that sand-sized particles in the lake sediments were transported primarily by strong winds to the lake and therefore can be used as a proxy for eolian activity. Eolian activity was weak from 10.3 to 6.3 ka, which may be a response to increased vegetation cover due to the strengthened Asian summer monsoon. In contrast, eolian activity occurred episodically when the summer monsoon weakened. The abrupt, intense sand deposition events are likely to have resulted from strong wind regimes, in turn linked to cooling events in the North Atlantic. Our results suggest that changes in atmospheric circulation patterns may have strongly affected the moisture balance and wind strength in the dust source area and hence dust emissions.