Isotopic Composition of Old Ground Water from Lake Agassiz: Implications for Late Pleistocene Climate

Science  23 Dec 1994:
Vol. 266, Issue 5193, pp. 1975-1978
DOI: 10.1126/science.266.5193.1975


A uniform oxygen isotope value of –25 per mil was obtained from old ground water at depths of 20 to 30 meters in a thick deposit of clay in the southern part of the glacial Lake Agassiz basin. The lake occupied parts of North Dakota and southern Manitoba at the end of the last glacial maximum and received water from the ice margin and the interior plains region of Canada. Ground water from thick late Pleistocene-age clay deposits elsewhere, a till in southern Saskatchewan, and a glaciolacustrine deposit in northern Ontario show the same value at similar depths. These sites are at about 50°N latitude, span a distance of 2000 kilometers, and like the Lake Agassiz sites, have a ground-water velocity of less than a few millimeters per year. The value of –25 per mil is characteristic of meltwater impounded in the southern basin of Lake Agassiz. This value corresponds to an estimated air temperature of –16°C, compared with the modern temperature of 0°C for this area.