Abstract

A 186-m-long core (DV93-1) from Death Valley, California, composed of interbedded salts and muds contains a 200 k.y. record of closed-basin environments and paleoclimates, interpreted on the basis of sedimentology, ostracodes, homogenization temperatures of fluid inclusions in halite, and correlation with shoreline tufa. The 200 k.y. paleoclimate record is dominated by two dry and/or warm and wet and cold cycles that occurred on a 100 k.y. time scale. These cycles begin with mud-flat deposits (192 ka to bottom of core, and 60 ka to 120 ka). Wetter and/or colder conditions produced greater effective moisture; saline pan and shallow saline lake evaporites overlie mud-flat sediments (186 ka to 192 ka and 35 ka to 60 ka). Eventually, enough water entered Death Valley to sustain perennial lakes that had fluctuating water levels and salinities (120 ka to 186 ka and 10 ka to 35 ka). When more arid conditions returned, mud-flat deposits accumulated on top of the perennial lake sediments, completing the cycle (120 ka and 10 ka). Of particular significance are the major lacustrine phases, 10 ka to 35 ka and 120 ka to 186 ka (oxygen isotope stages 2 and 5e–6), which represent markedly colder and wetter conditions than those of modern Death Valley. Of the two major lake periods, the penultimate glacial lakes were deeper and far longer lasting than those of the last glacial.

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