During the past 35,000 years, Lake Bonneville, Lake Russell, and Lake Searles underwent a major period of lake-level change. The lakes were at moderate levels or dry at the beginning of the period and seem to have achieved highstands between about 15,000 and 13,500 yr B.P. The rise of Lake Lahontan was gradual but not continuous, in part because of topographic constraints (intrabasin spill). Lake Lahontan also had an oscillation in lake level at 15,500 yr B.P. Radiocarbon-age estimations for materials that were deposited in the lake basins indicate that Lake Bonneville rose more or less gradually from 32,000 yr B.P., and had major oscillations in level between 23,000 and 21,000 yr B.P. and between 15,250 and 14,500 yr B.P. Lake Russell and Lake Searles had several major oscillations in lake level between 35,000 and 14,000 yr B.P. The timing and exact magnitude of the oscillations are difficult to decipher but both lakes may have achieved multiple highstand states. All four lakes may have had nearly synchronous recessions between about 14,000 and 13,500 yr B.P. After the recessions, the lakes seem to have temporarily stabilized or experienced a minor increase in size between about 11,500 and 10,000 yr B.P. These data provide circumstantial evidence that the Younger Dryas Event affected climate on at least a hemispheric scale. During the Holocene, the four lakes remained at low levels, and small oscillations in lake level occurred. An important aspect of the lake-level data is the accompanying expansion of lake-surface area at the time of the last highstand. Lake Bonneville and Lake Lahontan had surface areas about 10 times larger than their mean-historical reconstructed areas whereas Lake Russell and Lake Searles had surface areas about 5 times larger than their mean-historical reconstructed areas. Differences in the records of effective wetness may have been due to the locations of the basins relative to the position of the jetstream, or they may have resulted from lake/atmosphere feedback processes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes