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Great Salt Lake, and precursors, Utah: The last 30,000 years

Abstract

Sediment cores up to 6.5 m in length from the South Arm of Great Salt Lake, Utah, have been correlated. Radiocarbon ages and volcanic tephra layers indicate a record of greater than 30,000 years. A variety of approaches have been employed to collect data used in stratigraphic correlation and lake elevation interpretation; these include acoustic stratigraphy, sedimentologic analyses, mineralogy, geochemistry (major element, C, O and S isotopes, and organics), paleontology and pollen.

The results indicate that prior to 32,000 year B.P. an ephemeral saline lake-playa system was present in the basin. The perennial lake, which has occupied the basin since this time, rose in a series of three major steps; the freshest water conditions and presumably highest altitude was reached at about 17,000 year B.P. The lake remained fresh for a brief period, followed by a rapid increase in salinity and sharp lowering in elevation to levels below that of the present Great Salt Lake. The lake remained at low elevations, and divided at times into a north and south Basin, until about 8,000 year B.P. Since that time, with the exception of two short rises to about 1290 m, the lake level has remained near the present elevation of 1280 m.

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Spencer, R.J., Baedecker, M.J., Eugster, H.P. et al. Great Salt Lake, and precursors, Utah: The last 30,000 years. Contr. Mineral. and Petrol. 86, 321–334 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01187137

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Keywords

  • Stratigraphy
  • Tephra
  • Paleontology
  • Lake Level
  • Tephra Layer