Duration and severity of Medieval drought in the Lake Tahoe Basin

Quaternary Science Reviews
By: , and 

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Abstract

Droughts in the western U.S. in the past 200 years are small compared to several megadroughts that occurred during Medieval times. We reconstruct duration and magnitude of extreme droughts in the northern Sierra Nevada from hydroclimatic conditions in Fallen Leaf Lake, California. Stands of submerged trees rooted in situ below the lake surface were imaged with sidescan sonar and radiocarbon analysis yields an age estimate of ∼1250 AD. Tree-ring records and submerged paleoshoreline geomorphology suggest a Medieval low-stand of Fallen Leaf Lake lasted more than 220 years. Over eighty more trees were found lying on the lake floor at various elevations above the paleoshoreline. Water-balance calculations suggest annual precipitation was less than 60% normal from late 10th century to early 13th century AD. Hence, the lake’s shoreline dropped 40–60 m below its modern elevation. Stands of pre-Medieval trees in this lake and in Lake Tahoe suggest the region experienced severe drought at least every 650–1150 years during the mid- and late-Holocene. These observations quantify paleo-precipitation and recurrence of prolonged drought in the northern Sierra Nevada.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Duration and severity of Medieval drought in the Lake Tahoe Basin
Series title Quaternary Science Reviews
DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.08.015
Volume 30
Issue 23-24
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 11 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Quaternary Science Reviews
First page 3269
Last page 3279
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Tahoe Basin