Little Ice Age
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The paleohydrological evolution of several high altitude, saline lakes located in the southernmost Altiplano (El Peinado and San Francisco basins, Catamarca province, NW Argentina) was reconstructed applying sedimentological, geochemical and isotopic techniques. Several playa lakes from the San Francisco basin (26° 56′ S; 68° 08′ W, 3800-3900 m a.s.l.) show evidence of a recent raise in the watertable that led to modern deposition of carbonate and diatomaceous muds. A 2 m - long core from El Peinado Lake (26° 29′ 59′′ S, 68°05′ 32′′ W, 3820 m a.s.l.) consists of calcitic crusts (unit 3), overlaid by an alternation of macrophyte-rich and travertine clast- rich, laminated muds (unit 2), and topped by travertine facies (unit 1). This sedimentary sequence illustrates a paleohydrological evolution from a subaerial exposure (unit 3) to a high lake stand (unit 2), and a subsequent smaller decrease in lake level (unit 1). The δ13Corganic matterrecord also reflects the lake transgression between units 3 and 2. Although there is a general positive correlation between δ 18Ocarbonate and salinity proxies (Na, Li and B content), the large data dispersion indicates that other factors besides evaporation effects control chemical and isotopic composition of lakewater. Consequently, the oxygen isotopic composition cannot be interpreted exclusively as an indicator of salinity or evaporation ratio. The degassing of CO2 during groundwater discharge can explain the enriched δ13C values for primary carbonates precipitated. The carbon budget in these high altitude, saline lakes seems to be controlled by physical rather than biological processes.The Altiplano saline lakes contain records of environmental and climatic change, although accurate 14C dating of these lacustrine sediments is hindered by the scarcity of terrestrial organic material, and the large reservoir effects. Sedimentologic evidence, a 210Pb-based chronology, and a preliminary U/Th chronology indicate a very large reservoir effect in El Peinado, likely as a result of old groundwaters and large contributions of volcanic and geothermal 14C-free CO2 to the lake system. Alternative chronologies are needed to place these paleorecords in a reliable chronological framework. A period of increased water balance in the San Francisco basin ended at about 1660 ± 82 yr B.P. (calendar yr U/Th age), and would correlates with the humid phase between 3000 and 1800 yr B.P detected in other sites of the southern Altiplano. Both, 210Pb and preliminary U/Th dating favor a younger age for the paleohydrological changes in El Peinado. The arid period reflected by subaerial exposure and low lake levels in unit 3 would have ended with a large increase in effective moisture during the late 17th century. The increased lake level during deposition of unit 2 would represent the period between AD1650 - 1900, synchronous to the Little Ice Age. This chronological framework is coherent with other regional records that show an abrupt transition from more arid to more humid conditions in the early 17th century, and a change to modern conditions in the late 19th century. Although there are local differences, the Little Ice Age stands as a significant climatic event in the Andean Altiplano.
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