A 13,500 Year Record of Holocene Climate, Fire and Vegetation from Swan Lake, Idaho, USA
Abstract:Modern climate dynamics in the western US are largely determined by a combination of two factors: 1) the strength and position of midlatitude pressure systems, which, in turn, are responsible for the generation and trajectory of winter storms, and 2) the strength of the North America Monsoon (NAM) which brings summer precipitation northward in response to northern hemisphere warming. Paleoclimate records from the Great Basin of the western US suggest some coherence in the timing of major climatic shifts during the Holocene. However, knowledge of the timing and magnitude of these changes at local scales, which can help explain the relative contribution of midlatitude winter storms vs. NAM, is lacking in many places. Here we present new data that constrain the timing and magnitude of late glacial and Holocene climate variability in the northeastern Great Basin, provide insight into past spatial variability of precipitation patterns in the western US, and improve our understanding of regional scale influences on Great Basin climate.
In 2011, a 7.65 m sediment core was raised from Swan Lake, a small wetland located in southeastern Idaho that was formed in the spillway channel created by the catastrophic flooding of Lake Bonneville ~18 ka BP. Pollen, charcoal, clumped isotope, diatom, ostracod, and sedimentological data are used to reconstruct vegetation, fire history, and lake level/groundwater flux over the last 13,500 years. Age control is provided by 19 AMS radiocarbon determinations, which are reported as thousands of calibrated years before present (ka BP). This effort builds on earlier work by Bright (1966) who reported on pollen, macrofossils, and sediment type from Swan Lake. Our data suggest cool and wet conditions prevailed until around 12.3 ka BP, after which a drying trend begins. The early Holocene was marked by a warmer, drier climate, which persisted until around 6.2 ka BP. Moister conditions after 6.2 ka BP likely resulted from a combination of enhanced NAM and increased winter storm activity. The period from 4.6-1.1 ka BP is characterized by increased variability, although it appears to have been relatively dry compared to the preceding two millennia. Data suggest that climate in the area was relatively wet from 1.1 ka BP to the present.