Century-scale paleoclimatic reconstruction from Moon Lake, a closed- basin lake in the northern Great Plains

Kathleen R. Laird, Sherilyn C. Fritz, Eric C. Grimm, Pietra G. Mueller

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173 Scopus citations


Estimates of past lake-water salinity from fossil diatom assemblages were used to infer past climatic conditions at Moon Lake, a climatically sensitive site in the northern Great Plains. A good correspondence between diatom-inferred salinity and historical records of mean annual precipitation minus evapotranspiration (P - ET) strongly suggests that the sedimentary record from Moon Lake can be used to reconstruct past climatic conditions. Century-scale analysis of the Holocene diatom record indicates four major hydrological periods: an early Holocene transition from an open freshwater system to a closed saline system by 7300 B.P., which corresponds with a transition from spruce forest to deciduous parkland to prairie and indicates a major shift from wet to dry climate; a mid-Holocene period of high salinity from 7300 to 4700 B.P., indicating low effective moisture (P - ET); a transitional period of high salinity from 4700 to 2200 B.P., characterized by poor diatom preservation; and a late Holocene period of variable lower salinity during the past 2,200 yr, indicating fluctuations in effective moisture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)890-902
Number of pages13
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1996

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