Lake-level history of Lake Michigan for the past 12,000 years: the record from deep lacustrine sediments

Journal of Great Lakes Research
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

Collection and analysis of an extensive set of seismic-reflection profiles and cores from southern Lake Michigan have provided new data that document the history of the lake basin for the past 12,000 years. Analyses of the seismic data, together with radiocarbon dating, magnetic, sedimentologic, isotopic, and paleontologic studies of core samples, have allowed us to reconstruct lake-level changes during this recent part of the lake's history.

The post-glacial history of lake-level changes in the Lake Michigan basin begins about 11.2 ka with the fall from the high Calumet level, caused by the retreat of the Two Rivers glacier, which had blocked the northern outlet of the lake. This lake-level fall was temporarily reversed by a major influx of water from glacial Lake Agassiz (about 10.6 ka), during which deposition of the distinctive gray Wilmette Bed of the Lake Michigan Formation interrupted deposition of red glaciolacustrine sediment. Lake level then continued to fall, culminating in the opening of the North Bay outlet at about 10.3 ka. During the resulting Chippewa low phase, lake level was about 80 m lower than it is today in the southern basin of Lake Michigan.

The rise of the early Holocene lake level, controlled primarily by isostatic rebound of the North Bay outlet, resulted in a prominent, planar, transgressive unconformity that eroded most of the shoreline features below present lake level. Superimposed on this overall rise in lake level, a second influx of water from Lake Agassiz temporarily raised lake levels an unknown amount about 9.1 ka. At about 7 ka, lake level may have fallen below the level of the outlet because of sharply drier climate. Sometime between 6 and 5 ka, the character of the lake changed dramatically, probably due mostly to climatic causes, becoming highly undersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate and returning primary control of lake level to the isostatically rising North Bay outlet. Post-Nipissing (about 5 ka) lake level has fallen about 6 m due to erosion of the Port Huron outlet, a trend around which occurred relatively small (± ∼2 m), short-term fluctuations controlled mainly by climatic changes. These cyclic fluctuations are reflected in the sed-imentological and sediment-magnetic properties of the sediments.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Lake-level history of Lake Michigan for the past 12,000 years: the record from deep lacustrine sediments
Series title Journal of Great Lakes Research
DOI 10.1016/S0380-1330(94)71133-3
Volume 20
Issue 1
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coastal and Marine Geology Program
Description 20 p.
First page 73
Last page 92
Country United States
State Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin
Other Geospatial Lake Michigan
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N