Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

March 2007


Published in Quaternary Research 67:2 (March 2007), pp. 246-254; doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2006.12.001. Copyright © 2006 University of Washington; published by Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


In the central Great Plains of North America, loess stratigraphy suggests that climate during the late Pleistocene was cold and dry. However, this record is discontinuous, and there are few other records of late-Pleistocene conditions. Cobb Basin, located on the northern edge of the Nebraska Sand Hills, contains lacustrine sediments deposited during Marine Isotope Stage 3, beginning approximately 45,000 cal yr BP and continuing for at least 10,000 yr. The lake was formed by a dune dam blockage on the ancient Niobrara River, and its deposits contain a diatom record that indicates changes through time in lake depth driven by changes in effective moisture. During the earliest stages of lake formation, the climate was arid enough to mobilize dunes and emplace dune sand into a blocking position within the Niobrara stream bed. Diatom assemblages suggest that lake-level was shallow at formation, increased substantially during a wet interval, and then became shallow again, as arid conditions resumed. By about 27,000 cal yr BP the lake was filled, and a shallow ephemeral river occupied the basin.