skip to main content

Title: Searles Lake evaporite sequences: Indicators of late Pleistocene/Holocene lake temperatures, brine evolution, and p CO2
Searles Lake, California, was a saline-alkaline lake that deposited >25 non-clastic minerals that record the history of lake chemistry and regional climate. Here, the mineralogy and petrography from the late Pleistocene/Holocene (32−6 ka) portion of a new Searles Lake sediment core, SLAPP-SRLS17, is combined with thermodynamic models to determine the geochemical and paleoclimate conditions required to produce the observed mineral phases, sequences, and abundances. The models reveal that the primary precipitates formed by open system (i.e., fractional crystallization), whereas the early diagenetic salts formed by salinity-driven closed system back-reactions (i.e., equilibrium crystallization). For core SLAPP-SRLS17, the defining evaporite sequence trona → burkeite → halite indicates brine temperatures within a 20−29 °C range, implying thermally insulating lake depths >10 m during salt deposition. Evaporite phases reflect lake water pCO2 consistent with contemporaneous atmospheric values of ∼190−270 ppmv. However, anomalous layers of nahcolite and thenardite indicate pulses of pCO2 > 700−800 ppm, likely due to variable CO2 injection along faults. Core sedimentology indicates that Searles Lake was continuously perennial between 32 ka and 6 ka such that evaporite units reflect periods of net evaporation but never complete desiccation. Model simulations indicate that cycles of partial evaporation and dilution strongly influence long-term brine evolution by amassing certain species, particularly Cl−, that only occur in late-stage soluble salts. A model incorporating long-term brine dynamics corrects previous mass-balance anomalies and shows that the late Pleistocene/Holocene (32−6 ka) salts are partially inherited from the solutes introduced into earlier lakes going back at least 150 ka.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1903659 1903544
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
GSA Bulletin
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Well‐dated lacustrine records are essential to establish the timing and drivers of regional hydroclimate change. Searles Basin, California, records the depositional history of a fluctuating saline‐alkaline lake in the terminal basin of the Owens River system draining the eastern Sierra Nevada. Here, we establish a U‐Th chronology for the ∼76‐m‐long SLAPP‐SLRS17 core collected in 2017 based on dating of evaporite minerals. Ninety‐eight dated samples comprising nine different minerals were evaluated based on stratigraphic, mineralogic, textural, chemical, and reproducibility criteria. After the application of these criteria, a total of 37 dated samples remained as constraints for the age model. A lack of dateable minerals between 145 and 110 ka left the age model unconstrained over the penultimate glacial termination (Termination II). We thus established a tie point between plant wax δD values in the core and a nearby speleothem δ18O record at the beginning of the Last Interglacial. We construct a Bayesian age model allowing stratigraphy to inform sedimentation rate inflections. We find that the >210 ka SLAPP‐SRLS17 record contains five major units that correspond with prior work. The new dating is broadly consistent with previous efforts but provides more precise age estimates and enables a detailed evaluation of evaporite depositional history. We also offer a substantial revision of the age of the Bottom Mud‐Mixed Layer contact, shifting it from ∼130 ka to 178 ± 3 ka. The new U‐Th chronology documents the timing of mud and salt layers and lays the foundation for climate reconstructions.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The climate of the southwestern North America has experienced profound changes between wet and dry phases over the past 200 Kyr. To better constrain the timing, magnitude, and paleoenvironmental impacts of these changes in hydroclimate, we conducted a multiproxy biomarker study from samples collected from a new 77 m sediment core (SLAPP‐SRLS17) drilled in Searles Lake, California. Here, we use biomarkers and pollen to reconstruct vegetation, lake conditions, and climate. We find that δD values of long chainn‐alkanes are dominated by glacial to interglacial changes that match nearby Devils Hole calcite δ18O variability, suggesting both archives predominantly reflect precipitation isotopes. However, precipitation isotopes do not simply covary with evidence for wet‐dry changes in vegetation and lake conditions, indicating a partial disconnect between large scale atmospheric circulation tracked by precipitation isotopes and landscape moisture availability. Increased crenarchaeol production and decreased evidence for methane cycling reveal a 10 Kyr interval of a fresh, productive, and well‐mixed lake during Termination II, corroborating evidence for a paleolake highstand from shorelines and spillover deposits in downstream Panamint Basin and Death Valley during the end of the penultimate (Tahoe) glacial (140–130 ka). At the same time brGDGTs yield the lowest temperature estimates (mean months above freezing = 9°C ± 3°C) of the 200 Kyr record. These limnological conditions are not replicated elsewhere in the 200 Kyr record, suggesting that the Heinrich stadial 11 highstand was wetter than the last glacial maximum and Heinrich 1 (18–15 ka).

    more » « less
  3. Recent decades of warmer climate have brought drying wetlands and falling lake levels to southern Alaska. These recent changes can be placed into a longer-term context of postglacial lake-level fluctuations that include low stands that were as much as 7 m lower than present at eight lakes on the Kenai Lowland. Closed-basin lakes on the Kenai Lowland are typically ringed with old shorelines, usually as wave-cut scarps, cut several meters above modern lake levels; the scarps formed during deglaciation at 25–19 ka in a kettle moraine topography on the western Kenai Lowland. These high-water stands were followed by millennia of low stands, when closed-basin lake levels were drawn down by 5–10 m or more. Peat cores from satellite fens near or adjoining the eight closed-basin lakes show that a regional lake level rise was underway by at least 13.4 ka. At Jigsaw Lake, a detailed study of 23 pairs of overlapping sediment cores, seismic profiling, macrofossil analysis, and 58 AMS radiocarbon dates reveal rapidly rising water levels at 9–8 ka that caused large slabs of peat to slough off and sink to the lake bottom. These slabs preserve an archive of vegetation that had accumulated on a lakeshore apron exposed during the preceding drawdown period. They also preserve evidence of a brief period of lake level rise at 4.7–4.5 ka. We examined plant succession using in situ peat sequences in nine satellite fens around Jigsaw Lake that indicated increased effective moisture between 4.6 and 2.5 ka synchronous with the lake level rise. Mid- to late-Holocene lake high stands in this area are recorded by numerous ice-shoved ramparts (ISRs) along the shores. ISRs at 15 lakes show that individual ramparts typically record several shove events, separated by hundreds or thousands of years. Most ISRs date to within the last 5200 years and it is likely that older ISRs were erased by rising lake levels during the mid- to late Holocene. This study illustrates how data on vegetation changes in hydrologically coupled satellite-fen peat records can be used to constrain the water level histories in larger adjacent lakes. We suggest that this method could be more widely utilized for paleo-lake level reconstruction. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Ancient lake deposits in the Mojave Desert indicate that the water cycle in this currently dry place was radically different under past climates. Here we revisit a 700 m core drilled 55 years ago from Searles Valley, California, that recovered evidence for a lacustrine phase during the late Pliocene. We update the paleomagnetic age model and extract new biomarker evidence for climatic conditions from lacustrine deposits (3.373–2.706 Ma). The MBT′5Metemperature proxy detects present‐day conditions (21 ± 3°C,n = 2) initially, followed by warmer‐than‐present conditions (25 ± 3°C,n = 17) starting at 3.268 and ending at 2.734 Ma. Bacterial and archeal biomarkers reveal lake salinity increased after 3.268 Ma likely reflecting increased evaporation in response to higher temperatures. The δ13C values of plant waxes (−30.7 ± 1.4‰,n = 28) are consistent with local C3taxa, likely expanded conifer woodlands during the pluvial with less C4than the Pleistocene. δD values (−174 ± 5‰,n = 25) of plant waxes indicate precipitation δD values (−89 ± 5‰,n = 25) in the late Pliocene are within the same range as the late Pleistocene precipitation δD. Microbial biomarkers identify a deep, freshwater lake and a cooling that corresponds to the onset of major Northern Hemisphere glaciation at marine isotope stage marine isotope stages M2 (3.3 Ma). A more saline lake persisted for ∼0.6 Ma across the subsequent warmth of the late Pliocene (3.268–2.734 Ma) before the lake desiccated at the Pleistocene intensification of Northern Hemisphere Glaciation.

    more » « less
  5. We report on pollen, plant macrofossils, and associated lithostratigraphy of a sediment core extracted from the base of Silver Lake, a kettle lake in northern Lower Michigan, USA, which reveal a complex deglacial scenario for ice block melting and lake formation, and subsequent plant colonization. Complementary multivariate statistical and squared chord distance analyses of the pollen data support these interpretations. The basal radiocarbon age from the core (17 540 cal years BP) is rejected as being anomalously old, based on biostratigraphic anomalies in the core and the date’s incongruity with respect to the accepted regional deglaciation chronology. We reason that this erroneous age estimate resulted from the redeposition of middleWisconsin-age fossils by the ice sheet, mixed with the remains of plants that existed as the kettle lake formed at ca. 10 940 cal years BP by ice block ablation. Thereafter, the kettle lake became a reliable repository of Holocene-age fossils, documenting a mature boreal forest that existed until 10 640 cal years BP, followed by a pine-dominated mixed forest, an early variant of the mixed conifer–hardwood forest that persists to the present day. Our study demonstrates that researchers investigating kettle lakes, a common depositional archive for plant fossils in deglaciated landscapes, should exercise caution in interpreting the basal (Late Pleistocene/early Holocene-age) part of lake sediment cores. 
    more » « less