Cores of lake sediment to a depth of 334 m in the town of Tulelake, Siskiyou County, northern California, document the late Cenozoic paleolimnologic and paleoclimatic history of the northwestern edge of the Great Basin. The cores have been dated by radiometric, tephrochronologic and paleomagnetic analyses. Lacustrine diatoms are abundant throughout the record and document a nearly continuous paleolimnologic history of the Tule Lake basin for the last 3 Myr. During most of this time, this basin (Tule Lake) was a relatively deep, extensive lake. Except for a drier (and cooler?) interval recorded by Fragilaria species about 2.4 Ma, the Pliocene is characterized by a dominance of planktonic Aulacoseira solida implying a warm monomictic lake under a climatic regime of low seasonality. Much of the Pleistocene is dominated by Stephanodiscus and Fragilaria species suggesting a cooler, often drier, and highly variable climate. Benthic diatoms typical of alkaline-enriched saline waters commonly appear after 1.0 Ma, and tephrochronology indicates slow deposition and possible hiatuses between about 0.6 and 0.2 Ma. The chronology of even-numbered oxygen isotope stages approximately matches fluctuations in the abundance of Fragilaria since 800 ka indicating that glacial periods were expressed as drier environments at Tule Lake. Glacial and interglacial environments since 150 ka were distinct from, and more variable than, those occurring earlier. The last full glacial period was very dry, but shortly thereafter Tule Lake became a deep, cool lacustrine system indicating a substantial increase in precipitation. Aulacoseira ambigua characterized the latest glacial and Holocene record of Tule Lake. Its distribution indicates that warmer and wetter climates began about 15 ka in this part of the Great Basin. Diatom concentration fluctuates at 41 000 year intervals between 3.0 and 2.5 Ma and at approximately 100 000 year intervals after 1.0 Ma. In the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene, Aulacoseira solida percentages wax and wane in an approximately 400 000 year cycle. The possible response of Tule Lake diatom communities to orbitally-induced insolation cycles underscores the importance of this record for the study of late Cenozoic paleoclimate change. ?? 1992 Springer-Verlag.
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Late Cenozoic lacustrine and climatic environments at Tule Lake, northern Great Basin, USA