Sediments of the Wilson Creek Formation surrounding Mono Lake preserve a high-resolution archive of glacial and pluvial responses along the eastern Sierra Nevada due to late Pleistocene climate change. An absolute chronology for the Wilson Creek stratigraphy is critical for correlating the paleoclimate record to other archives in the western U.S. and the North Atlantic region. However, multiple attempts to date the Wilson Creek stratigraphy using carbonates and tephras yield discordant results due to open-system effects and radiocarbon reservoir uncertainties as well as abundant xenocrysts. New ion microprobe 238U-230Th dating of the final increments of crystallization recorded by allanite and zircon autocrysts from juvenile pyroclasts yield ages that effectively date eruption of key tephra beds and delimit the timing of basal Wilson Creek sedimentation to the interval between 26.8±2.1 and 61.7±1.9 ka. Tephra (Ash 15) erupted during the geomagnetic excursion originally designated the Mono Lake excursion yields an age of 40.8±1.9 ka, indicating that the event is instead the Laschamp excursion. The new ages support a depositional chronology from magnetostratigraphy that indicates quasi-synchronous glacial and hydrologic responses in the Sierra Nevada and Mono Basin to regional climate change, with intervals of lake filling and glacial-snowpack melting that are in phase with peaks in spring insolation.
Additional publication details
High-resolution tephrochronology of the Wilson Creek Formation (Mono Lake, California) and Laschamp event using 238U-230Th SIMS dating of accessory mineral rims