Calibrating Late Quaternary terrestrial climate signals: Radiometrically dated pollen evidence from the southern Sierra Nevada, USA

Ronald J. Litwin, Joseph P. Smoot, Nancy J. Durika, George I. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

We constructed a radiometrically calibrated proxy record of Late Pleistocene and Holocene climate change exceeding 230,000 yr duration, using pollen profiles from two cores taken through age-equivalent dry lakes - one core having greater age control (via 230Th alpha mass-spectrometry) and the other having greater stratigraphic completeness. The better dated of these two serial pollen records (Searles Lake) served as a reference section for improving the effective radiometric age control in a nearby and more complete pollen record (Owens Lake) because they: (1) are situated ~ 90 km apart in the same drainage system (on, and immediately leeward of, the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada), and (2) preserved strikingly similar pollen profiles and concordant sequences of sedimentological changes. Pollen assemblages from both lakes are well preserved and diverse, and document serial changes in Late Pleistocene and Holocene plant zone distribution and composition in the westernmost Great Basin; they consist of taxa now inhabiting montane forest, woodland, steppe, and desert-scrub environments. The studied core intervals are interpreted here to be the terrestrial equivalent of marine δ18O stages 1 through 9; these pollen profiles now appear to be among the best radiometrically dated Late Pleistocene records of terrestrial climate change known.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1151-1171
Number of pages21
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume18
Issue number10-11
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1999

Bibliographical note

Copyright:
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam. All rights reserved.

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