Paleotemperatures in the Southwestern United States Derived from Noble Gases in Ground Water

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Science  15 May 1992:
Vol. 256, Issue 5059, pp. 1000-1003
DOI: 10.1126/science.256.5059.1000


A paleotemperature record based on measurements of atmospheric noble gases dissolved in ground water of the Carrizo aquifer (Texas) shows that the annual mean temperature in the southwestern United States during the last glacial maximum was about 5°C lower than the present-day value. In combination with evidence for fluctuations in mountain snow lines, this cooling indicates that the glacial lapse rate was approximately the same as it is today. In contrast, measurements on deep-sea sediments indicate that surface temperatures in the ocean basins adjacent to our study area decreased by only about 2°C. This difference between continental and oceanic records poses questions concerning our current understanding of paleoclimate and climate-controlling processes.