A hydrologic model of the Shingobee Watershed in north-central Minnesota was developed to reconstruct mid-Holocene paleo-lake levels for Williams Lake, a surface-water body located in the southern portion of the watershed. Hydrologic parameters for the model were first estimated in a calibration exercise using a 9-yr historical record (1990–1998) of climatic and hydrologic stresses. The model reproduced observed temporal and spatial trends in surface/groundwater levels across the watershed. Mid-Holocene aquifer and lake levels were then reconstructed using two paleoclimatic data sets: CCM1 atmospheric general circulation model output and pollen-transfer functions using sediment core data from Williams Lake.
Calculated paleo-lake levels based on pollen-derived paleoclimatic reconstructions indicated a 3.5-m drop in simulated lake levels and were in good agreement with the position of mid-Holocene beach sands observed in a Williams Lake sediment core transect. However, calculated paleolake levels based on CCM1 climate forcing produced only a 0.05-m drop in lake levels. We found that decreases in winter precipitation rather than temperature increases had the largest effect on simulated mid-Holocene lake levels. The study illustrates how watershed models can be used to critically evaluate paleoclimatic reconstructions by integrating geologic, climatic, limnologic, and hydrogeologic data sets.