A MULTICORE, 2300-YEAR VARVE CHRONOLOGY FROM EKLUTNA LAKE
In collaboration with researchers from the University of Gent in Belgium, we are developing chronologies on five long cores taken along a transect at Eklutna Lake, a varved glacial lake located approximately 45 km northeast of the city of Anchorage. We use different approaches to quantify the uncertainty in our varve chronologies, including repeated counts by independent observers, and a Bayesian model that takes into account priors such as varve quality and marker beds that are traced across the entire basin. Our chronologies, which are validated using radiocarbon, will serve as a chronological framework for the late Holocene reconstruction of glacial activity in the Eklutna Lake watershed as well as for an analysis of the seismites and other turbidites found in the Eklutna Lake cores. As part of the South Alaska Lakes project, a similarly detailed varve chronology will be developed for nearby Skilak Lake, another deep glacial lake.
DIATOM OXYGEN ISOTOPES RECORDS FROM LAKES IN THE KENAI LOWLANDS
While annually-resolved sediments in deep glacial-fed lakes like Eklutna and Skilak provide detailed accounts of climate conditions as reflected by glacier fluctuations, it is also important to examine indicators that yield information about the source and amount of precipitation over time, as changes in these moisture conditions can have pronounced effects on terrestrial climate. To this end, it is useful to analyze changes in the isotopic composition of oxygen in lake water over time, as the relative abundance of heavy (18O) versus light (16O) oxygen isotopes is sensitive to changes in both precipitation/ evaporation balance (P-E) and changes in the source and trajectory of storm tracks and precipitation. Changes in lake water oxygen isotopes are recorded in the isotopic composition of the diatoms (single-cellular, green algae) living in a given lake-- specifically, in the diatoms’ skeletons, or “frustules,” which are hard, silicious, and remain preserved in lake sediments as they rapidly bloom and die. Therefore, it is possible to extract and purify diatom frustules throughout a lake sediment sequence, and to infer the changes in the lake water’s oxygen isotopes that diatoms have recorded over time.
By analyzing diatom oxygen isotopes in several lakes in the Kenai lowlands, where the biogenic silica (diatom) content in lake sediments is high enough to complete these analyses, the glacier fluctuations inferred from Eklutna and Skilak lakes will be placed in a broader paleohydrological context. Both hydrologically closed (sensitive to P-E) and hydrologically open (sensitive to changes in the source and trajectory of precipitation) lakes will be analyzed in order to get a improve our understanding of multiple aspects of the region’s climate history. These records will inform our understanding of how important atmospheric and oceanic phenomena, such as the Aleutian Low atmospheric pressure cell and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, have behaved over the course of the Holocene.
FLOOD RECORD FROM POTHOLE LAKE
Flooding in the Skilak glacier-lake system on the Kenai Peninsula is known to cause infrastructure damage to roads and buildings in the city of Soldotna during flood propagated ice jams on the Kenai River. The Skilak glacier-lake system currently has three starting pieces of a flood history: 1) a dated 1979 flood layer in a sediment core from Skilak Lake, 2) a written account of a 1969 flood event, and 3) a stream gauge that records peak flood-associated discharge on the Kenai River that extends back to 1987. In order to further plan for and mitigate flood-associated hazards in the region, we have to understand the flood periodicity and history of this system.
Pothole Lake sits 3-meters above the braided stream channel of the Skilak River that connects Skilak Glacier to Skilak Lake, and fills with flood-unique sediments when the Skilak River floods and breaches this threshold. Furthermore, the terraces across Skilak River’s sandur (an outwash plain formed by glacial meltwater) hold the ages of the most recent flood activity over their surfaces. Using these records, I will analyze changes in flood periodicity and activity in order to understand discharge dynamics from this system as well as the associated geohazard impacts on local residents.