Holocene multidecadal and multicentennial droughts affecting Northern California and Nevada

Pyramid Island, Pyramid Lake, Nevada Holocene multidecadal and multicentennial droughts affecting Northern California and Nevada
Quaternary Science Reviews Vol. 21 (4-6) (February 2002) pp. 659-682.

1Larry Benson, 2Michaele Kashgarian, 3Robert Rye, 4Steve Lund, 5Fred Paillet, 6Joseph Smoot, 3Cynthia Kester, 7Scott Mensing, 8Dave Meko, and 9Susan Lindström

1 US Geological Survey, 3215 Marine Street, Boulder, CO 80303, USA
2 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, PO Box 808, Livermore, CA 94550, USA
3 US Geological Survey, MS 963, Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, CO 80225, USA
4 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA
5 US Geological Survey, MS 403, Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, CO 80225, USA
6 US Geological Survey, MS 955, Reston VA 22092, USA
7 Department of Geography, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA
8 Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
9 Box 324, Truckee, CA 95734, USA

ABSTRACT:
Continuous, high-resolution d18O records from cored sediments of Pyramid Lake, Nevada, indicate that oscillations in the hydrologic balance occurred, on average, about every 150 years (yr) during the past 7630 calendar years (cal yr). The records are not stationary; during the past 2740 yr, drought durations ranged from 20 to 100 yr and intervals between droughts ranged from 80 to 230 yr. Comparison of tree-ring-based reconstructions of climate change for the past 1200 yr from the Sierra Nevada and the El Malpais region of northwest New Mexico indicates that severe droughts associated with Anasazi withdrawal from Chaco Canyon at 820 cal yr BP (calendar years before present) and final abandonment of Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and the Kayenta area at 650 cal yr BP may have impacted much of the western United States. During the middle Holocene (informally defined in this paper as extending from 8000 to 3000 cal yr BP), magnetic susceptibility values of sediments deposited in Pyramid Lake's deep basin were much larger than late-Holocene (3000-0 cal yr BP) values, indicating the presence of a shallow lake. In addition, the mean d18O value of CaCO3 precipitated between 6500 and 3430 cal yr BP was 1.6 less than the mean value of CaCO3 precipitated after 2740 cal yr BP. Numerical calculations indicate that the shift in the d18O baseline probably resulted from a transition to a wetter (>30%) and cooler (3-5°C) climate. The existence of a relatively dry and warm middle-Holocene climate in the Truckee River-Pyramid Lake system is generally consistent with archeological, sedimentological, chemical, physical, and biological records from various sites within the Great Basin of the western United States. Two high-resolution Holocene-climate records are now available from the Pyramid and Owens lake basins which suggest that the Holocene was characterized by five climatic intervals. TIC and d18O records from Owens Lake indicate that the first interval in the early Holocene (11,600-10,000 cal yr BP) was characterized by a drying trend that was interrupted by a brief (200 yr) wet oscillation centered at 10,300 cal yr BP. This was followed by a second early-Holocene interval (10,000-8000 cal yr BP) during which relatively wet conditions prevailed. During the early part of the middle Holocene (8000-6500 cal yr BP), high-amplitude oscillations in TIC in Owens Lake and d18O in Pyramid Lake indicate the presence of shallow lakes in both basins. During the latter part of the middle Holocene (6500-3800 cal yr BP), drought conditions dominated, Owens Lake desiccated, and Lake Tahoe ceased spilling to the Truckee River, causing Pyramid Lake to decline. At the beginning of the late Holocene (~3000 cal yr BP), Lake Tahoe rose to its sill level and Pyramid Lake increased in volume.

DATA:

Download the data from this study from the WDC Paleo Archive:
Pyramid Lake data in Text or Microsoft Excel format.
Owens Lake data in Text or Microsoft Excel format.
Truckee River headwaters at Lake Tahoe spillway, 1991 drought Submerged mid-Holocene tree stump, off Baldwin Beach, Lake Tahoe
Truckee River headwaters at Lake Tahoe spillway, during the 1991 drought. Lake Tahoe fell below its spill point to the Truckee River, cutting off much of the input to Pyramid Lake.
Photo by Susan Lindström.
Submerged mid-Holocene (~5300 calendar years old) tree stump, off Baldwin Beach, Lake Tahoe.
Photo by Susan Lindström.

To read or view the full study, please visit the Elsevier website.
It was published in Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 21 (4-6) (February 2002) pp. 659-682.


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16 August 2002