Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

April 2003


Laird, K.R., et al., 2003, Moon Lake 11,000 Year Diatom-inferred Salinity Data, IGBP PAGES/World Data Center for Paleoclimatology Data Contribution Series #2003-030. NOAA/NGDC Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder CO, USA. Used by permission.


Estimates of past lake-water salinity from fossil diatom assemblages were used to infer past climatic conditions at Moon Lake, a climatically sensitive site in the northern Great Plains. A good correspondence between diatom-inferred salinity and historical records of mean annual precipitation minus evapotranspiration (P-ET) strongly suggests that the sedimentary record from Moon Lake can be used to reconstruct past climatic conditions. Century-scale analysis of the Holocene diatom record indicates four major hydrological periods: an early Holocene transition from an open freshwater system to a closed saline system by 7300 BP, which corresponds with a transition from spruce forest to deciduous parkland to prairie and indicates a major shift from wet to dry climate; a mid-Holocene period of high salinity from 7300 to 4700 BP, indicating low effective moisture (P-ET); a transitional period of high salinity 4700 to 2200 BP, characterized by poor diatom preservation; and a late Holocene period of variable lower salinity during the past 2,200 years, indicating fluctuations in effective moisture.