Abstract

The sequence of units (from the base up) in the Sixteen Mile Creek lagoon (Lake Ontario) mimics the longitudinal sequence of surficial environments: pink silt—overbank (flood plain – dry marsh); bottom sand—stream channel and beach; orange silt—marsh; gyttja—wet marsh and very shallow (deltaic) lagoon; and brown and grey clay—open-water lagoon. This entire sequence accumulated over the last 4200 years under slowly deepening, transgressive conditions caused by the isostatic rise of the lake outlet. Land clearing by European settlers dramatically increased the supply of clastic sediment and terminated the deposition of the organic-rich silty clays (gyttja) that make up most of the lagoon fill.Because the gyttja and beach sand are interpreted to have accumulated in water depths of less than 0.5 m, the elevation–time plot of 14C dates from these units can be used to reconstruct a very closely constrained lake-level curve. The data indicate that water levels have risen at an average rate of 0.25 cm/a over the last 3300 years as a result of differential, isostatic rebound. Superimposed on this trend are water-level oscillations with amplitudes on the order of 1 m and periods of several hundred years. These oscillations are synchronous and in phase with water-level fluctuations in Lake Michigan, and with a variety of other climatic variations in North America and Europe. We propose, therefore, that the water-level oscillations are a result of long-term, climatically produced variations in precipitation in the Great Lakes drainage basin.

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