Early Pleistocene–to–present paleoclimate archive for the American Southwest from Stoneman Lake, Arizona, USA

Spencer E. Staley, Peter J. Fawcett, R. Scott Anderson, Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Long, continuous records of terrestrial paleoclimate offer insights into natural climate variability and provide context for geomorphological studies, climate model reconstructions, and predictions of future climate change. STL14 is an 80 m lacustrine sediment core that archives paleoenvironmental changes at Stoneman Lake, Coconino County, Arizona, from the early Pleistocene (ca. 1.3 Ma) to present. Full-core sedimentology was analyzed using smear slides and core face observations. Lithofacies strongly correlate with wet bulk density and bulk magnetic susceptibility (MS), and these data resemble a sawtooth pattern characteristic of glacialinterglacial climate cycles. A linkage between deep to shallow lake depth transitions and glacial terminations is supported by an age model that incorporates accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dates and tephrochronology of ashes from the Lava Creek B and multiple Long Valley, California, volcanic eruptions. We correlated middle and late Pleistocene glacial maxima to deep lake deposits defined by well-preserved bedding, increased biosilica, boreal pollen taxa (i.e., Picea), and lower density and MS. Interglacial periods are associated with shallow-water deposits characterized by banded-to-massive siliciclastic material, some authigenic calcite, the alga Phacotus, and higher density and MS. Prior to the marine isotope stage (MIS) 24–22 interval, smaller-amplitude changes in the lake environment suggest milder glacial conditions compared to those of the middle and late Pleistocene. Thus, abrupt intensification of glacial conditions may have occurred ca. 900 ka in the American Southwest, mirroring a global characteristic of the midPleistocene transition. The STL14 record suggests that lake environments throughout the history of this small (3.5 km2), internally drained, basaltic catchment are sensitive to the regional hydrologic balance, which, at orbital time scales, is largely influenced by the northern cryosphere and associated changes in atmospheric circulation. The predominance of quartz in sediment throughout the record indicates significant eolian inputs. Few paleoclimate records from this region extend beyond the last glacial cycle, let alone the middle Pleistocene, making STL14 a valuable resource for studying environmental responses to a range of natural climate states and transitions throughout much of the Quaternary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-814
Number of pages24
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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