Abstract

Well-dated lacustrine deposits in northern White Rock Canyon, New Mexico, record damming of the Rio Grande by at least four separate failures of a slump complex between about 17.5 and 12.4 ka (14C), linking mass movements to a period of rapid climate change in the western United States. Failure of metastable slumps probably resulted from removal of lateral support during downcutting and erosion by the Rio Grande and from a decrease in resisting forces due to increased pore pressures. Our chronology suggests that the lake that formed between 17.5 and 15.0 ka may record effects of both glacial melt and pluvial activity (mainly enhanced rainfall); the youngest lake (∼ 12.4 ka) may record pluvial runoff; and the intermediate lakes (13.7 to 13.1 ka) may record pluvial and minor melt-water activity. We have not found lacustrine deposits younger than about 12.4 ka. The record of geomorphic response along the Rio Grande suggests that late Pleistocene climatic changes may have triggered similar mass movements elsewhere in the Southwest.

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