Characterizing late Quaternary lake-level variability in Lago de Tota, Colombian Andes, with CHIRP seismic stratigraphy

  • Derek K. Gibson
  • Broxton W. BirdEmail author
  • Nigel J. Wattrus
  • Jaime Escobar
  • Maliha Ahmed
  • Hector Fonseca
  • Felipe Velasco
  • Alejandro Fernandez
  • Pratigya J. Polissar
Original paper


Geophysical analysis of lacustrine sediment stratigraphy at Lago de Tota (Tota), Boyaca, Colombia provided evidence for significant lake-level fluctuations through the late Quaternary and produced a record that potentially spans the last 60 ka. CHIRP data collected in 2015 from this large, high-elevation lake in the Eastern Cordillera of the northern hemisphere Colombian Andes reveal a series of off-lap and on-lap sequences in the upper ~ 20 m of the lake’s sediment column that indicate large amplitude changes in lake level. Because 14C dated sediment cores are only available for the upper 3 m of the sediment column, known Holocene sedimentation rates were extrapolated in order to assign preliminary ages to the off-lap and on-lap sequence boundaries below 3 m depth. These data suggest that lake levels at Tota were lower than present during marine isotope stage (MIS) 4 between 60 and 57 ka, relatively high during MIS 3 between 57 and 29 ka, fell to their lowest levels during MIS 2 between 29 and 14 ka, and gradually rose to the modern high stand through a series of transgressions during MIS 1 and the Holocene from ~ 14 ka to the present. These fluctuations are broadly consistent with trends observed in other lake-level reconstructions from the northern (in phase) and southern (out of phase) hemisphere Andes, possibly supporting the idea that millennial-to-orbital-scale South American hydroclimate variability is linked to shifts in the mean latitude of the intertropical convergence zone due to the influence of insolation- and ocean circulation-driven hemispheric temperature gradients during glacial/stadial and interglacial/interstadial events. Although additional geochronological data will be needed to better resolve the timing of the Tota lake-level changes and their relationships with other records, these preliminary results from Tota, as well as the presence of a thick (> 300 m) sedimentary archive, indicate that this site has significant potential to produce high-resolution, quantitative, paleo-hydroclimate data spanning much of the last 1 million years. Because geophysical surveys and long paleoclimate records from northern hemisphere South America are exceedingly rare, these data provide critical insight into regional hydroclimate trends through the Late Quaternary. Additional work, such as the collection of sediment cores spanning the depth interval represented in the CHIRP data, is required, however, in order to place firmer chronological constraints on the hypothesized timing of lake-level fluctuations at Tota and to investigate their paleo-hydroclimatic implications.


Lago de Tota CHIRP South American monsoon system South American hydroclimate Late Quaternary hydroclimate Paleoclimate Seismic stratigraphy Inter-tropical convergence zone 



This research was partially supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation (EAR 1445649) and Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN (RSFG & IDF). Partial support was also provided by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) CRN3038, which is supported by the US National Science Foundation (Grant GEO-1128040).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek K. Gibson
    • 1
  • Broxton W. Bird
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nigel J. Wattrus
    • 2
  • Jaime Escobar
    • 3
    • 4
  • Maliha Ahmed
    • 1
  • Hector Fonseca
    • 5
  • Felipe Velasco
    • 6
  • Alejandro Fernandez
    • 7
  • Pratigya J. Polissar
    • 8
  1. 1.Indiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.University of Minnesota DuluthDuluthUSA
  3. 3.Universidad del NorteBarranquillaColombia
  4. 4.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanama CityPanama
  5. 5.Escuela de Ingeniería GeológicaUniversidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia (UPTC)SogamosoColombia
  6. 6.Fundación MontecitoSogamosoColombia
  7. 7.Universidad de los AndesBogotáColombia
  8. 8.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesColumbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth ObservatoryPalisadesUSA

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