Widespread Lake Highstands in the Southernmost Andean Altiplano during Heinrich Event 1: Implications for the South American Summer Monsoon

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Christine Y. Chen1,2, David McGee1 and Jay Quade3, (1)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States, (2)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (3)University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States
Speleothem-based oxygen isotope records provide strong evidence of anti-phased behavior of the northern and southern hemisphere summer monsoons during Heinrich events, but we lack rigorous constraints on the amount of wetting or drying occurring in monsoon regions. Studies centered on shoreline deposits of closed-basin lakes are well suited for establishing such quantitative controls on water balance changes by providing unequivocal evidence of lake volume variations.

Here we present new dating constraints on the highstands of several high-altitude (3800-4350 m) paleolakes in the southern Andean Altiplano, an outlying arid region of the Atacama Desert stretching across the Chilean-Bolivian-Argentinian border east of the Andes (20-25°S). These lakes once occupied the closed basins where only phreatic playas, dry salars, and shallow ponds exist today. Initial U-Th dating of massive shoreline tufas reveals that these deposits are dateable to within ±150 to 300 yrs due to high U concentrations and low initial Th content (as indicated by high 230Th/232Th). Our U-Th and 14C dates show that lake highstands predominantly occur between 18.5 and 14.5 kyrs BP, coinciding with Heinrich Event 1 (HE1) and the expansion of other nearby lakes, such as Lake Titicaca. Because of their (1) location at the modern-day southwestern edge of the summer monsoon, (2) intact shoreline preservation, and (3) precise age control, these lakes may uniquely enable us to reconstruct the evolution of water balance (P-E) changes associated with HE1. Hydrologic modeling constrained by temperature estimates provided by local glacial records is used to provide bounds for past precipitation changes. We also examine North Atlantic cooling as the mechanism for these changes by comparing a compilation of S. American lake level records with various hosing experiments and transient climate simulations at HE1. Our results lend us confidence in expanding our U-Th work to other shoreline tufas in the surrounding region to produce a more detailed, spatiotemporal record of water balance changes in S. America.