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ABSTRACT

The deposits of Pleistocene Lake Tecopa include lacustrine, alluvial, eolian, and groundwater discharge deposits of the Tecopa basin in southeastern California. Stratigraphic sections measured in the Tecopa basin and detailed sedimentary facies analysis were used to interpret the depositional settings and track the evolution of sedimentary processes in the basin during the Pleistocene. The early Pleistocene (ca. 2.4–1.0 Ma) deposits of the Lake Tecopa beds record deposition in small saline, alkaline lakes and playas with surrounding mudflats and sandflats and adjacent alluvial fans. Ancestral Amargosa River gravels are first observed in fluvial deposits in the northern part of the basin at ca. 1.0 Ma and correspond with lake expansions (Glass Mountain [GM] lakes) during deposition of the uppermost Glass Mountain ash beds. Several oscillations in lake level followed the post-GM lake decline, culminating in the basin-filling Lava Creek (LC) lake, which reached its acme during deposition of the 0.63 Ma Lava Creek B ash bed. The post–Lava Creek B strata reflect primarily alluvial, fluvial, eolian, and groundwater discharge depositional processes, punctuated in the youngest part of the section by basin-filling lakes (high lake 1 and 2). The Lava Creek B ash bed and older lacustrine strata exhibit extensive zeolitization and clay authigenesis, characteristic of saline, alkaline lake deposits, but the post–Lava Creek B ash bed lacustrine strata have only minor zeolite and clay alteration, suggesting fresher water conditions and a change in the hydrologic state of the basin. Sedimentological observations along with shoreline elevation data provide evidence for intermittent spillover of basin-filling lakes after ca. 0.63 Ma.

Subtle tectonic deformation influenced sedimentary processes in the Tecopa basin throughout its history. Episodes of uplift and tilting of Lake Tecopa strata during the middle Pleistocene in the southern part of the basin along the Tecopa Hump likely controlled the sill elevation for spillover of the lake, creating accommodation space for late Pleistocene basin-filling lakes. Ultimately, decreased uplift could not keep pace with increased discharge resulting from high effective moisture during latest middle Pleistocene pluvial periods, and Lake Tecopa drained, most likely during or immediately after marine oxygen isotope stage (MIS) 10 (ca. 0.3 Ma). The deposits of Lake Tecopa provide a detailed record of Pleistocene paleoclimate from ca. 2.4 to 0.3 Ma that demonstrates Milankovitch-scale tuning and clarifies the amplitude of Pleistocene climate change in the southern Great Basin of North America.

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