Isotopically-depleted late Pleistocene groundwater in Columbia River Basalt aquifers: Evidence for recharge of glacial Lake Missoula floodwaters?

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Abstract

[1] Late Pleistocene outburst flooding of ice-dammed glacial Lake Missoula, and possible discharge from the Cordilleran Ice Sheet (CIS), catastrophically altered the northwestern United States landscape, yet little is known about potential infiltration of flood waters into the subsurface. This study provides compelling evidence for the presence of late Pleistocene CIS-related recharge waters in the Columbia River Basalt Aquifers (CRBAs) in central Washington. CRBA groundwaters with corrected 14C ages from 15.7 and 33.3 k yrs BP (during periods of flood events) have anomalously low δ18O values (−18.9 to −17.6‰), compared to late Pleistocene soil waters (−16.1 to −13.4‰) and modern precipitation in the region (average −15.9‰), consistent with CIS-related meltwater recharge. These results have implications for our understanding of megaflood phenomena on earth and Mars.

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