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Lake-Level Reconstruction and Paleohydrology of Birch Lake, Central Alaska, Based on Seismic Reflection Profiles and Core Transects

  • Mark B. Abbott (a1), Bruce P. Finney (a2), Mary E. Edwards (a3) and Kerry R. Kelts (a4)

Lake-level history for Birch Lake, Alaska, was reconstructed using seismic profiles and multiproxy sedimentary analyses including sedimentology, geochemistry, magnetic susceptibility, and palynology. Twenty-two seismic profiles (18 km total) and eight sediment cores taken from the lake margin to its depocenter at 13.5 m provide evidence for low lake stands during the late Pleistocene and Holocene. Thirty-one AMS radiocarbon dates of macrofossils and pollen provide a century-scale chronology. Prior to 12,700 14C yr B.P., the lake, which now overflows, was either seasonally dry or desiccated for prolonged periods, indicating a severe period of aridity. Lake level rose more than 18 m between 12,700 and 12,200 14C yr B.P. before falling to 17 m below the level of overflow. Between 11,600 and 10,600 14C yr B.P. the water remained between 14 and 17 m below the overflow level. Onlap sedimentary sequences were formed during a transgression phase between 10,600 and 10,000 14C yr B.P. Between 10,000 and about 8800 14C yr B.P. the lake was between 6 and 9 m below the overflow level. Lake level again rose, approaching the overflow level, between 8800 and 8000 14C yr B.P. Seismic and core evidence of minor erosional events suggest lowstands of 2–6 m until 4800 14C yr B.P. There have been no prolonged periods of lake-level depression since that time. The major restructuring of the climate system during deglaciation evidently generated a complex set of fluctuations in effective moisture in interior Alaska, which likely affected eolian processes and vegetation development, as well as lake levels.

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