A sediment core extending to 28,000 cal yr BP from Lower Red Rock Lake in the Centennial Valley of southwestern Montana provides new information on the nature of full-glacial vegetation as well as a history of late-glacial and Holocene vegetation and climate in a poorly studied region. Prior to 17,000 cal yr BP, the eastern Centennial Valley was occupied by a large lake (Pleistocene Lake Centennial), and valley glaciers were present in adjacent mountain ranges. The lake lowered upon erosion of a newly formed western outlet in late-glacial time. High pollen percentages of Juniperus, Poaceae, Asteraceae, and other herbs as well as low pollen accumulation rates suggest sparse vegetation cover. Inferred cold dry conditions are consistent with a strengthened glacial anticyclone at this time. Between 17,000 and 10,500 cal yr BP, high Picea and Abies pollen percentages suggest a shift to subalpine parkland and warmer conditions than before. This is attributed to the northward shift of the jet stream and increasing summer insolation. From 10,500 to 7100 cal yr BP, pollen evidence of open dry forests suggests warm conditions, which were likely a response to increased summer insolation and a strengthened Pacific subtropical high-pressure system. From 7100 to 2400 cal yr BP, cooler moister conditions promoted closed forest and wetlands. Increases in Picea and Abies pollen percentages after 2400 cal yr BP suggest increasing effective moisture. The postglacial pattern of Pseudotsuga expansion indicates that it arrived later on the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide than on the Pacific side. The Divide may have been a physical barrier for refugial populations or it delimited different climate regions that influenced the timing of Pseudotsuga expansion.
Additional publication details
A 28,000 year history of vegetation and climate from Lower Red Rock Lake, Centennial Valley, Southwestern Montana, USA