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  1. Lacustrine strata are often among the highest-resolution terrestrial paleoclimate archives available. The manner in which climate signals are registered into lacustrine deposits varies, however, as a function of complex sedimentologic and diagenetic processes. The retrieval of reliable records of climatic forcing therefore requires a means of evaluating the potential influence of changing sedimentary transfer functions. Here, we use high-resolution X-ray fluorescence core scanning of the Wilkins Peak Member of the Green River Formation to characterize the long-term evolution of transfer functions in an ancient lacustrine record. Our analysis identifies a shift in the frequency distribution of Milankovitch-band variance between the lower and middle Wilkins Peak Member across a range of temporally calibrated elemental intensity records. Spectral analysis of the lower Wilkins Peak Member shows strong short eccentricity, obliquity, precession, and sub-Milankovitch−scale variability, while the middle Wilkins Peak Member shows strong eccentricity variability and reduced power at higher frequencies. This transition coincides with a dramatic decline in the number and volume of evaporite beds. We attribute this shift to a change in the Wilkins Peak Member depositional transfer function caused by evolving basin morphology, which directly influenced the preservation of bedded evaporite as the paleolake developed from a deeper, meromictic lake to a shallower, holomictic lake. The loss of bedded evaporite, combined with secondary evaporite growth, results in reduced obliquity- and precession-band power and enhanced eccentricity-band power in the stratigraphic record. These results underscore the need for careful integration of basin and depositional system history with cyclostratigraphic interpretation of the dominant astronomical signals preserved in the stratigraphic archive. 
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  2. 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.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Great Salt Lake (GSL), Utah, is a hypersaline terminal lake in the Great Basin, and the remnant of the late glacial Lake Bonneville. Holocene hydroclimate variations cannot be interpreted from the shoreline record, but instead can be investigated by proxies archived in the sediments. GLAD1‐GSL00‐1B was cored in 2000 and recently dated by radiocarbon for the Holocene section with the top 11 m representing ∼7 ka to present. Sediment samples every 30 cm (∼220 years) were studied for the full suite of microbial membrane lipids, including those responsive to temperature and salinity. The Archaeol and Caldarchaeol Ecometric (ACE) index detects the increase in lipids of halophilic archaea, relative to generalists, as salinity increases. We find Holocene ACE values ranged from 81 to 98, which suggests persistent hypersalinity with <50 g/L variability across 7.2 ka. The temperature proxy, MBTʹ5Me, yields values similar to modern mean annual air temperature for months above freezing (MAF = 15.7°C) over the last 5.5 ka. Several glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether metrics show a step shift in microbial communities and limnology at 5.5 ka. Extended archaeol detects elevated salinity during the regional mid‐Holocene drought, not readily detected in the ACE record that is often near the upper limit of the index. We infer that the mid‐Holocene GSL was shallower and saltier than the late Holocene. The current drying may be returning the lake to conditions not seen since the mid‐Holocene.

     
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    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. 
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  7. Paleoanthropologists have long speculated about the role of environmental change in shaping human evolution in Africa. In recent years, drill cores of late Neogene lacustrine sedimentary rocks have yielded valuable high-resolution records of climatic and ecosystem change. Eastern African Rift sediments (primarily lake beds) provide an extraordinary range of data in close proximity to important fossil hominin and archaeological sites, allowing critical study of hypotheses that connect environmental history and hominin evolution. We review recent drill-core studies spanning the Plio–Pleistocene boundary (an interval of hominin diversification, including the earliest members of our genus Homo and the oldest stone tools), and the Mid–Upper Pleistocene (spanning the origin of Homo sapiens in Africa and our early technological and dispersal history). Proposed drilling of Africa's oldest lakes promises to extend such records back to the late Miocene. ▪ High-resolution paleoenvironmental records are critical for understanding external drivers of human evolution. ▪ African lake basin drill cores play a critical role in enhancing hominin paleoenvironmental records given their continuity and proximity to key paleoanthropological sites. ▪ The oldest African lakes have the potential to reveal a comprehensive paleoenvironmental context for the entire late Neogene history of hominin evolution. 
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