2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


SMOOT, Joseph P., US Geol Survey, 926A National Ctr, Reston, VA 20192 and BENSON, Larry V., US Geological Survey, 3215 Marine Street, Boulder, CO 80303, jpsmoot@usgs.gov

A 3.5 m-long core from Pyramid Lake was taken in 100+ m of water depth and analyzed for its climate history spanning the period between 16-9 ka. Both the sedimentological record and chemical climate proxies in the core clearly reflect pervasive climate instability for this time period as in the Greenland Ice Sheet Project (GISP2). Despite a high-resolution sampling density and age control, we are unable to constrain the synchronicity (or lack thereof) of climate changes in the GISP2 and Pyramid Lake records due to the systematic mixing of older sediment during falling lake levels.

During the final period of Pleistocene glacial advance in the Sierras, Pyramid Lake spilled through passes into adjacent basins forming Lake Lahontan. The core record of this period is mostly heavily bioturbated with only occasional bands of poorly sorted siliciclastic sand deposited by ice melt. Sediments were dominated by a fine glacial flour mixed with minor subhedral to anhedral calcite crystals, and scattered pelagic diatoms. During periods of lake-level drop, there was a rapid transition to aragonite needles. An increase in ostracode shells, a mixture of benthic and pelagic diatoms, and a mixture of other carbonate minerals also accompany the change in mineralogy. The influx of the other materials is interpreted as older marginal sediment of the deeper lake washed into the shrinking lake.

Following the Lahontan highstand at about 15.2 ka, a precipitous drop in lake level formed a stratified lake with a saline lower water mass. Rising lake levels produced sub-mm laminae consisting of rhythmic layers of calcite, deep-water diatoms, and organic-rich mud. Falling lake levels resulted in aragonite precipitation replacing calcite and the inclusion within the clastic layers of a diversity of benthic and pelagic diatoms and a mixture of carbonate crystal types.

Although oxygen isotopes become heavier with falling lake levels, the degree of change is much less than expected. Furthermore, carbon isotopes show progressive discordance with oxygen isotopes in the shallower-water deposits, due to mixing of older carbon. Therefore sedimentation rates and reservoir effects on 14C dates are not constant, and the commonly used age models are not applicable. We believe this may be a pervasive but under-appreciated problem in closed-basin lakes.