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Extent of Pleistocene Lakes in the Western Great Basin
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Frequently anticipated questions:
- Title: Extent of Pleistocene Lakes in the Western Great Basin
During the Pliocene to middle Pleistocene, pluvial lakes in the western Great Basin repeatedly rose to levels much higher than those of the well-documented late Pleistocene pluvial lakes, and some presently isolated basins were connected. Sedimentologic, geomorphic, and chronologic evidence at sites shown on the map indicates that Lakes Lahontan and Columbus-Rennie were as much as 70 m higher in the early-middle Pleistocene than during their late Pleistocene high stands. Lake Lahontan at its 1400-m shoreline level would submerge present-day Reno, Carson City, and Battle Mountain, and would flood other now-dry basins. To the east, Lakes Jonathan (new name), Diamond, Newark, and Hubbs also reached high stands during the early-middle(?) Pleistocene that were 25-40 m above their late Pleistocene shorelines; at these very high levels, the lakes became temporarily or permanently tributary to the Humboldt River and hence to Lake Lahontan. Such a temporary connection could have permitted fish to migrate from the Humboldt River southward into the presently isolated Newark Valley and from Lake Lahontan into Fairview Valley. The timing of drainage integration also provides suggested maximum ages for fish to populate the basins of Lake Diamond and Lake Jonathan. Reconstructing and dating these lake levels also has important implications for paleoclimate, tectonics, and drainage evolution in the western Great Basin. For example, shorelines in several basins form a stair-step sequence downward with time from the highest levels, thought to have formed at about 650 ka, to the lowest, formed during the late Pleistocene. This descending sequence indicates progressive drying of pluvial periods, possibly caused by uplift of the Sierra Nevada and other western ranges relative to the western Great Basin. However, these effects cannot account for the extremely high lake levels during the early middle Pleistocene; rather, these high levels were probably due to a combination of increased effective moisture and changes in the size of the Lahontan drainage basin.
- How might this data set be cited?
U.S. Geological Survey, and Reheis, Marith, 1999, Extent of Pleistocene Lakes in the Western Great Basin: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Field Studies Map MF-2323, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO.
- What geographic area does the data set cover?
- West_Bounding_Coordinate: -121.319
- East_Bounding_Coordinate: -113.445
- North_Bounding_Coordinate: 42.973
- South_Bounding_Coordinate: 36.934
- What does it look like?
- http://pubs.usgs.gov/mf/1999/mf-2323/mf2323.pdf (Adobe Portable Document Format)
PDF image of 'Extent of Pleistocene Lakes in the Western Great Basin', showing pluvial lake distribution within the Lahontan basin.
- Does the data set describe conditions during a particular time period?
- Calendar_Date: 1999
- Currentness_Reference: publication date
- What is the general form of this data set?
- Geospatial_Data_Presentation_Form: Map
- How does the data set represent geographic features?
- How are geographic features stored in the data set?
This is a vector data set.
It contains the following vector data types (SDTS terminology):
- GT-polygon composed of chains (519)
- What coordinate system is used to represent geographic features?
The map projection used is Lambert Conformal Conic.
Planar coordinates are encoded using Coordinate pair
- Projection parameters:
- Standard_Parallel: 33.0
- Standard_Parallel: 45.0
- Longitude_of_Central_Meridian: -118.0
- Latitude_of_Projection_Origin: 23.0
- False_Easting: 0
- False_Northing: 0
Abscissae (x-coordinates) are specified to the nearest 130.0
Ordinates (y-coordinates) are specified to the nearest 130.0
Planar coordinates are specified in meters
The horizontal datum used is North American Datum of 1927.
The ellipsoid used is Clarke 1866.
The semi-major axis of the ellipsoid used is 6378206.4.
The flattening of the ellipsoid used is 1/294.98.
- Altitude_Datum_Name: National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929
- Altitude_Resolution: 30.0
- Altitude_Distance_Units: meters
- Altitude_Encoding_Method: Attribute values
- How does the data set describe geographic features?
This data set consists of 10 coverages:
late_pl (polygon): Late Pleistocene lake boundaries. FLAG attribute indicates 1=lake present or 0=lake not present. LAKENAME attribute lists lake names. ELEVATION attribute lists lake elevation in meters.
max_pl (polygon): Maximum extent of pre-late Pleistocene lakes. Attribute descriptions are the same as those of late_pl dataset.
add_pl (polygon): Possible additional area of pre-late Pleistocene lakes. FLAG attribute indicates 1=lake present and 0=lake not present.
basin_bnd (line): Boundary of Lahontan basin. No user-defined attributes.
add_basin_bnd (line): Inferred increase of drainage basin area. No user-defined attributes.
flows (line): Lake overflows. FLAG attribute indicates 1=late Plestocene overflow and 2=possible pre-late Pleistocene overflow and modern sill height.
study_sites (point): Field sample sites. DEPOSIT attribute lists types as "pre-late Pleistocene" or "Pliocene."
state_bnd (line): State boundaries. No user-defined attributes.
majdrain (line): Major drainages in basin. No user-defined attributes.
shadebase.tif (TIFF): Georeferenced TIFF file of shaded-relief grid for map base. Produced from DEM grid using the ARC/INFO 'HILLSHADE' command. Georeferencing information is contained in the file shadebase.tfw.
Most late Pleistocene shoreline altitudes and lake names are from Mifflin and Wheat (1979). Lake Warner shoreline from Weide (1975), Lake Alvord shoreline and overflow from Hemphill-Haley (1987), and Lake Coyote shoreline and overflow from Lindberg and Hemphill-Haley (1988). Pre-late Pleistocene shorelines from Reheis and others (1993), Reheis and Morrison (1997), and Reheis and others (in press), except for Lake Wellington (Stewart and Dohrenwend, 1984). See Reheis and others (1993; in press) for information on lake-deposit localities.
Hemphill-Haley, M. A., 1987, Quaternary stratigraphy and late Holocene faulting along the base of the eastern escarpment of Steens Mountain, southeastern Oregon: M.S. thesis, Arcata, Humboldt State University, 84 p.
Lindberg, D.N., and Hemphill-Haley, M.A., 1988, Late-Pleistocene pluvial history of the Alvord basin, Harney Co., Oregon [abstract]: Northwest Science, v. 62, no. 2, p. 81.
Mifflin, M. D., and Wheat, M. M., 1979, Pluvial lakes and estimated pluvial climates of Nevada: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 94, 57 p.
Reheis, M. C., and Morrison, R. B., 1997, High, old pluvial lakes of western Nevada, in Link, P. K., and Kowallis, B. J., eds., Proterozoic to recent stratigraphy, tectonics, and volcanology, Utah, Nevada, southern Idaho and central Mexico: Provo, Brigham Young University Geology Studies, v. 1, p.459-492.
Reheis, M. C., Sarna-Wojcicki, A. M., Reynolds, R. L., Repenning, C. A., and Mifflin, M.D., in press, Pliocene to middle Pleistocene lakes in the western Great Basin: Ages and connections, in Hershler, R., Currey, D., and Madsen, D., eds., Great Basin Aquatic Systems History: Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution.
Reheis, M.C., Slate, J.L., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., and Meyer, C.E., 1993, A late Pliocene to middle Pleistocene pluvial lake in Fish Lake Valley, Nevada and California: Geological Society of American Bulletin, v. 105, p. 959-967.
Stewart, J. H., and Dohrenwend, J. C., 1984, Geologic map of the Wellington quadrangle, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Open file Report 84-211, scale 1:62,500.
Weide, D. L., 1975, Postglacial geomorphology and environments of the Warner Valley Hart Mountain area, Oregon: Ph.D. dissertation, Los Angeles, University of California, 293 p.
- Who are the originators of the data set? (may include formal authors, digital compilers, and editors)
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Marith Reheis
- Who also contributed to the data set?
Production of this map was funded by a Gilbert Fellowship and by the Global Change and Climate History Program.
- To whom should users address questions about the data?
U.S. Geological Survey
Denver Federal Center
The purpose of this map is to show the differences between the extents of late Pleistocene pluvial lakes and older, larger lakes caused by much higher effective moisture during past glacial-pluvial episodes.
- From what previous works were the data drawn?
- DEM (source 1 of 2)
U.S. Geological Survey, unknown, 1:250,000-scale Digital Elevation Model(DEM).
- Type_of_Source_Media: online
- Source_Scale_Denominator: 250,000
- Source_Contribution: lake elevations were derived from the DEM data.
- DLG (source 2 of 2)
U.S. Geological Survey, unknown, 1:2,000,000-scale boundary and hydrology Digital Line Graphs.
- Type_of_Source_Media: online
- Source_Scale_Denominator: 2,000,000
- Source_Contribution: state boundaries and major drainages
- How were the data generated, processed, and modified?
- Date: 1998 (process 1 of 5)
Merged the appropriate 3-arc-second 1:250,000-scale DEMs to cover the study area, and ran a simple smoothing algorithm on the grid to remove striping and other unwanted artifacts inherent in the data.
- Date: 1999 (process 2 of 5)
Created contour lines by running the ARC/INFO command 'LATTICECONTOUR' on the elevation grid for specific elevation contours.
- Date: 1999 (process 3 of 5)
Used the ARC/INFO command 'GENERALIZE' to smooth the newly created contour lines.
- Date: 1999 (process 4 of 5)
Created lake polygons by selecting contour lines corresponding to observed or inferred lake shoreline elevations and built them as polygons. Attributed each lake polygon with the lake's name (item 'LAKENAME') and set item 'FLAG' to 1 for each polygon that corresponds to a late Pleistocene lake area. Set the value of item 'ELEVATION' to the value of the elevation contour.
- Date: 21-Jul-1999 (process 5 of 5)
Creation of original metadata record
Person who carried out this activity:
U.S. Geological Survey
Attn: Paco VanSistine
Denver Federal Center
- What similar or related data should the user be aware of?
- How well have the observations been checked?
Attributes within this dataset consist of the names of the lakes only, or flags (0|1) for presence/absence of a lake within a particular polygon. The attribute tables were checked for completeness (i.e. no empty fields), consistency (each "flag" field contains a 0 or 1 only), and for spelling of geographic feature names.
- How accurate are the geographic locations?
The lake shoreline locations are delineated using contour lines derived from DEM source data with 3 arc-second (nominally 90 meters) grid cell resolution. Horizontal accuracy of DEM data is dependent upon the horizontal spacing of the elevation matrix. Within a standard DEM, most terrain features are generalized by being reduced to grid nodes spaced at regular intersections in the horizontal plane. This generalization reduces the ability to recover positions of specific features less than the internal spacing during testing and results in a de facto filtering or smoothing of the surface during gridding. The broad DMA production objective for a 1-degree DTED-1 is to satisfy an absolute horizontal accuracy (feature to datum) of 130 m, circular error at 90-percent probability. The relative horizontal accuracy (feature to feature on the surface of the elevation model), although not specified, will in many cases conform to the actual hypsographic features with higher integrity than indicated by the absolute accuracy.
- How accurate are the heights or depths?
The lake elevations were derived from DEM source data with 3 arc-second (nominally 90 meters) grid cell resolution. Vertical accuracy of DEM data is dependent upon the spatial resolution (horizontal grid spacing), quality of the source data, collection and processing procedures, and digitizing systems. Within a standard DEM, most terrain features are generalized by being reduced to grid nodes spaced at regular intersections in the horizontal plane. This generalization reduces the ability to recover positions of specific features less than the internal spacing during testing and results in a de facto filtering or smoothing of the surface during gridding. The broad DMA production objective for a 1-degree DTED-1 is to satisfy an absolute vertical accuracy (feature to mean sea level) of + or - 30 m linear error at 90-percent probability. The relative vertical accuracy (feature to feature on the surface of the elevation model), although not specified, will in many cases conform to the actual hypsographic features with higher integrity than indicated by the absolute accuracy.
- Where are the gaps in the data? What is missing?
Late Pleistocene lake areas are shown for all pluvial lakes within the map area that extend into Nevada or are part of the Lahontan drainage basin. However, larger, pre-late Pleistocene areas are shown only for lake basins which have been visited in the field by the author. The extent of older pluvial lakes in unvisited lake basins is unknown.
- How consistent are the relationships among the observations, including topology?
Lake areas (late Pleistocene and maximum) are based on shoreline altitudes measured at the field localities shown on map and described in detail in Reheis and Morrison (1997) and Reheis and others (in press). Lake areas were plotted using contour lines of lake-surface altitudes generated from DEMs. Inferred additional area of lakes is approximately delineated based on the author's judgement and is least accurate. Map elements were visually checked for overshoots, undershoots, duplicate features, and other errors.
Are there legal restrictions on access or use of the data?
- Access_Constraints: none
- Use_Constraints: none
- Who distributes the data set? (Distributor 1 of 1)
USGS Information Services
- What's the catalog number I need to order this data set?
- What legal disclaimers am I supposed to read?
Our use of trade names does not constitute an endorsement by the government of the companies or products holding those trade names
- How can I download or order the data?
- Availability in digital form:
- Cost to order the data: none
- Last modified: 05-Feb-2016
- Metadata author:
Peter N Schweitzer
USGS Midwest Area
Mail Stop 954
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr
- Metadata standard:
- FGDC CSDGM (FGDC-STD-001-1998)
This page is <http://geo-nsdi.er.usgs.gov/metadata/map-mf/2323/metadata.faq.html>
Generated by mp version 2.9.33 on Tue Apr 12 10:28:25 2016