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'Little Ice Age' aridity in the North American Great Plains - a high-resolution reconstruction of salinity fluctuations from Devils Lake, North Dakota, USA: a comment on Fritz, Engstrom and Haskell

January 1, 1996

On the basis of three sediment-based chronologies, Fritz et al. ( 1994) concluded that during the ’Little Ice Age’ (about AD 1500 to 1850), the Devils Lake Basin generally had less effective moisture (precipitation minus evaporation) and warmer temperatures than at present. In this comment, we argue that historic data indicate that runoff and effective moisture were greater than at present. The largest nineteenth-century floods (AD 1826, 1852 and 1861) were significantly greater than the twentiethcentury floods, and flooding in the Red River of the North Basin occurred more frequently from AD 1800 to 1870 than since 1870. Between AD 1776 and 1870, the ratio of wet to dry years was about 2 to 1. Mean temperatures in all seasons were cooler for 1850-70 than for 1931-60. Lake levels of Devils Lake during the first half of the nineteenth century were higher than they are today, and, even when Devils Lake was almost dry, the salinity was less than the ’diatom-inferred’ salinity values that Fritz et al. (1994) estimated for 1800 through about 1850. We acknowledge the importance of high-resolution palaeoclimatic records, but interpretation of these records must be consistent with historic information.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1996
Title 'Little Ice Age' aridity in the North American Great Plains - a high-resolution reconstruction of salinity fluctuations from Devils Lake, North Dakota, USA: a comment on Fritz, Engstrom and Haskell
DOI 10.1177/095968369600600413
Authors Gregg J. Wiche, Robert M. Lent, W. F. Rannie
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Holocene
Index ID 70196026
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization North Dakota Water Science Center; Dakota Water Science Center