Diatoms from lake sediments beneath Owens Lake playa, Inyo County, California, document a nearly continuous paleolimnological record of climate and hydrologic change since the penultimate glacial-interglacial cycle based on a chronology established by radiocarbon, tephrochronology, and paleomagnetic control. Freshwater planktic diatoms (especially species of Stephanodiscus), plagioclase feldspar-rich sediments with high magnetic susceptibility, and Juniperus-type pollen characterized the penultimate glaciation at Owens Lake. Saline diatoms dominated in the following interglacial period, and there are several episodes during which freshwater planktic diatoms became abundant between 100 and 50 ka that may represent interstadial climatic conditions. Saline diatoms fell to low values after 50 ka, but warm-season Aulacoseira species indicate episodes of significant summer precipitation in the hydrologic balance of Owens Lake prior to the last glacial maximum. By 25 ka, glacial environments were again characterized by abundant Juniperus, plagioclase feldspar, and Stephanodiscus species. Generally and Holocene climates were recorded in Owens Lake by short-term fluctuations of saline and freshwater diatoms, desiccation, and oolitic sediments barren of diatoms. Comparison to paleoclimate records both north and south of Owens Lake suggest a southerly displacement of storm tracks originating from the Aleutian Low during glacial episodes.
Additional publication details
A diatom record of climate and hydrology for the past 200 KA from Owens Lake, California with comparison to other Breat Basin records