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Influence of Late Quaternary Climatic Changes on Geomorphic and Pedogenic Processes on a Desert Piedmont, Eastern Mojave Desert, California

  • Stephen G. Wells (a1), Leslie D. McFadden (a1) and John C. Dohrenwend (a2)
Abstract

Radiocarbon dating of late Quaternary deposits and shorelines of Lake Mojave and cation-ratio numerical age dating of stone pavements (Dorn, 1984) on the adjacent Soda Mountains piedmont provide age constraints for alluvial and eolian deposits. These deposits are associated with climatically controlled stands of Lake Mojave during the past 15,000 yr. Six alluvial fan units and three eolian stratigraphic units were assigned ages based on field relations with dated shorelines and piedmont surfaces, as well as on soil-geomorphic data. All but one of these stratigraphic units were deposited in response to time-transgressive climatic changes beginning approximately 10,000 yr ago. Increased eolian flux rates occurred in response to the lowering of Lake Mojave and a consequent increase in fine-sediment availability. Increased rates of deposition of eolian fines and associated salts influenced pedogenesis, stone-pavement development, and runoff-infiltration relations by (1) enhancing mechanical weathering of fan surfaces and hillslopes and (2) forming clay- and silt-rich surface horizons which decrease infiltration. Changes in alluvial-fan source areas from hillslopes to piedmonts during the Holocene reflect runoff reduction on hillslopes caused by colluvial mantle development and runoff enhancement on piedmonts caused by the development of less-permeable soils. Inferred increased in early to middle Holocene monsoonal activity resulted in high-magnitude paleo-sheetflood events on older fan pavements; this runoff triggered piedmont dissection which, in turn, caused increased sediment availability along channel walls. Thus, runoff-infiltration changes during the late Quaternary have occurred in response to eolian deposition of fines, pedogenesis, increased sheetflood activity in the Holocene, and vegetational changes which are related to many complicated linkages among climatic change, lake fluctuations, and eolian, hillslope, and alluvial-fan processes.

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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
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