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Keywords:

  • Great Basin;
  • Heinrich events;
  • pluvial lakes;
  • radiocarbon dating;
  • southwestern US

Abstract

Pluvial lakes were abundant in the southwestern United States during Pleistocene glaciations, particularly in the Great Basin. Many of these lakes occupied closed basins; therefore, fluctuations of their water surface elevations are valuable sources of paleoclimate information. Histories of the largest lakes are well constrained, whereas dozens of smaller lakes that were present in this region have received relatively little scientific attention. Given their dimensions, these smaller lakes were climatically sensitive and can offer important information about Quaternary climate variability. Here we present new ages for the highstands of three previously undated small lakes based on radiocarbon dating of gastropod shells recovered from beach ridges. These results are combined with other published and unpublished 14C ages to yield an extensive compilation of highstand shoreline ages for lakes of all sizes throughout the southwestern US. The results indicate that although some lakes reached highstands during the Last Glacial Maximum, the strongest temporal correspondence is between highstands and Heinrich Event H1. These results are consistent with speleothem-based reconstructions of effective moisture in the southwestern US, which show increased precipitation during stadials of the last glacial cycle. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.