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Radiocarbon ages and age models for the past 30,000 years in Bear Lake, Utah and Idaho

January 8, 2009

Radiocarbon analyses of pollen, ostracodes, and total organic carbon (TOC) provide a reliable chronology for the sediments deposited in Bear Lake over the past 30,000 years. The differences in apparent age between TOC, pollen, and carbonate fractions are consistent and in accord with the origins of these fractions. Comparisons among different fractions indicate that pollen sample ages are the most reliable, at least for the past 15,000 years. The post-glacial radiocarbon data also agree with ages independently estimated from aspartic acid racemization in ostracodes. Ages in the red, siliclastic unit, inferred to be of last glacial age, appear to be several thousand years too old, probably because of a high proportion of reworked, refractory organic carbon in the pollen samples.

Age-depth models for five piston cores and the Bear Lake drill core (BL00-1) were constructed by using two methods: quadratic equations and smooth cubic-spline fits. The two types of age models differ only in detail for individual cores, and each approach has its own advantages. Specific lithological horizons were dated in several cores and correlated among them, producing robust average ages for these horizons. The age of the correlated horizons in the red, siliclastic unit can be estimated from the age model for BL00-1, which is controlled by ages above and below the red, siliclastic unit. These ages were then transferred to the correlative horizons in the shorter piston cores, providing control for the sections of the age models in those cores in the red, siliclastic unit.

These age models are the backbone for reconstructions of past environmental conditions in Bear Lake. In general, sedimentation rates in Bear Lake have been quite uniform, mostly between 0.3 and 0.8 mm yr‒1 in the Holocene, and close to 0.5 mm yr‒1 for the longer sedimentary record in the drill core from the deepest part of the lake.

Publication Year 2009
Title Radiocarbon ages and age models for the past 30,000 years in Bear Lake, Utah and Idaho
DOI 10.1130/2009.2450(05)
Authors Steve M. Colman, Robert J. Rosenbauer, Darrell Kaufman, Walter E. Dean, John McGeehin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title GSA Special Papers
Index ID 70207726
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center; Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center