• End-member modelling;
  • grain-size distribution;
  • laser-diffraction particle sizer;
  • loess;
  • mixtures;
  • unmixing


Genetically meaningful decomposition (unmixing) of sediment grain-size distributions is accomplished with the end-member modelling algorithm. Unmixing of the loess grain-size distributions of a Late Quaternary loess–palaeosol succession from the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau indicates that the loess is a mixture of three end-members representing very fine sandy, coarse silty and medium silty loess. The unmixing approach potentially enables the unravelling of sediment fluxes from multiple dust sources, opening the way to significant advances in palaeoclimatic reconstructions from loess grain-size distribution data. However, as laser-diffraction size analysis is a volume-based technique, the proportional contributions of the modelled end-members might deviate (significantly) from weight proportions. Hence, calibration of the end-member volume proportions to weight proportions must be established before one can calculate the source-specific dust fluxes. This paper reports the findings of a sediment-mixing experiment which enables calibration of the modelled mixing patterns established for the Tibetan loess–palaeosol succession.