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The last interglaciation at Owens Lake, California; Core OL-92

December 1, 1998

Owens Lake, located at the eastern base of the central Sierra Nevada (Fig. 1), was the terminus of the Owens River prior to the lake's complete desiccation shortly after 1913 due to river diversion by the City of Los Angeles. During earlier wetter cycles, the lake overflowed to fill a series of downstream basins including China Lake Basin, Searles Valley, Panamint Valley, and ultimately, Death Valley (Smith and Street-Perrott, 1983). In 1992 the U.S. Geological Survey drilled a 323-m-deep core (OL-92) into Owens Lake sediments near the depocenter of the basin to obtain a continuous record of silty-clay sediment spanning the last 800,000 yrs. A multi-parameter reconnaissance study of the entire core (ca 7000-yr resolution), was reported in a 13-chapter summary volume (Smith and Bischoff, 1997). A document containing the numerical and other detailed forms of raw data collected by that volume's authors was prepared earlier (Smith and Bischoff, 1993). The reconnaissance study provided an approximate time-depth model for the entire core, based on radiocarbon dates from the top 31m, the Bishop Ash (759,000 yrs) at 304 m, ten within-Brunhes paleomagnetic excursions, and a compaction-corrected mass-accumulation rate of 51.4 g/cm/l000yr (Bischoff et al., 1997a). Application of this model to observed sediment parameters indicates that Owens Lake was saline, alkaline, and biologically productive at times of decreased water-flow, and was generally hydrologically flushed and relatively unproductive during times of increased water-flow. Grain size, abundance of CaCO3, organic carbon, clay mineralogy, cation-exchange capacity of the clay fraction, fossil pollen, fish, ostracodes, and diatoms (see summary by Smith et al., 1997) all show cyclic variation down the core. CaCO3 abundance, in particular, strongly reflects an approximately 100 ka dominant cycle, characteristic of global ice-volume indicated by the MIS δ18O record. Four of the last five marine isotope terminations are clearly shown in the OL-92 record.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title The last interglaciation at Owens Lake, California; Core OL-92
DOI 10.3133/ofr98132
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 98-132
Index ID ofr98132
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization