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Paleoclimatic Inferences from an Isotopic Investigation of Groundwater in the Central San Juan Basin, New Mexico

  • Fred M. Phillips (a1), Leslie A. Peeters (a1), Michael K. Tansey (a1) and Stanley N. Davis (a2)

Abstract

Groundwater from the Ojo Alamo and Nacimiento aquifers in the central San Juan Basin. New Mexico, has yielded 14C ages ranging from modern to 35,000 yr B.P. The Pleistocene-age samples are characterized by a stable isotope content about 25‰ lighter in D and 3‰ lighter in 18O than modern precipitation and groundwater. We attribute this difference to a colder mean annual temperature and perhaps increased winter precipitation. Consideration of various factors controlling the stable isotope composition of the groundwater allows estimation of a 5° to 7°C temperature decrease during the late Wisconsin, accompanied by increased effective precipitation. A similar estimate of the temperature change is obtained from noble-gas paleothermometry. These data support a model of moderately cooler late Pleistocene climate in the American Southwest characterized by summers with less precipitation than today, but wetter winters.

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