Pleistocene pluvial lakes of the American West: a short history of research
Scientific investigations of Pleistocene pluvial lakes in the American West occurred in five phases. The pioneer phase prior to 1870 saw former lakes identified by missionary priests, fur trappers, military expeditions and railroad surveyors. The classic phase, between 1870 and 1920, linked initially with independent surveys and, after 1879, with the United States Geological Survey and with irrigation and mining ventures, saw most lakes identified and described by such worthies as Gilbert, Russell, Gale, Waring and Thompson. A consolidation phase from 1920 to 1955 provided synthesis and new data but, in the absence of age controls, saw much speculation about temporal links between pluvial lakes, glacial stages, and climate forcing. The initial dating phase between 1955 and 1980 saw radiocarbon dating applied to late Pleistocene lakes and their Holocene relics and successors. The integrative phase since 1980, supported by enhanced field, remote sensing, laboratory and dating techniques, has seen an array of issues involving pluvial lakes linked to changes in regional ecology and global climate. In the above sequence, progress from one phase to the next reflected changes in the intellectual climate and advances in scientific methods. Today, we reflect on the episodic but cumulative increase in knowledge about late Pleistocene pluvial lakes, especially for Lake Bonneville, Lake Lahontan and the eastern California lake cascade. The record of earlier Pleistocene lakes, in some cases successors to Miocene and Pliocene lakes, is less certain because of deformation and erosion or burial. Continuing challenges involve evaluation of the Pleistocene lake record as a whole in the context of late Cenozoic tectonic and climate change, and of contemporary environmental and water-resource issues.
Figures & Tables
This book deals with various interesting aspects of the histories of geomorphology and Quaternary geology in different parts of the world. The papers cover a range of topics: the origin of the term ‘Quaternary’, histories of ideas and debates relating to aspects of fluvial geomorphology (USA and Australia), glacial geomorphology and glaciation (Northern Europe, the Baltic countries, Russia, Iceland, and New Zealand), desert dunes and the geology of Australia, peneplains in China, a palaeo-Tokyo Bay in Japan, together with biographies of Charles Cotton (New Zealand), Valerija Čepulytė (Lithuania) and Česlovas Pakuckas (Lithuania and Poland) that highlight their respective contributions to the disciplines of geomorphology and Quaternary geology. There is an autobiographical contribution from E. E. Milanovsky (Russia) on his work in Siberia, the Caucasus and Iceland, illustrated by his sketches made in the field.