The paleohydrology of ephemeral stream systems is an important constraint on paleoclimatic conditions in arid environments, but remains difficult to measure quantitatively. For example, sedimentary records of the size and extent of pluvial lakes in the Mojave Desert (southwestern USA) have been used as a proxy for Quaternary climate variability. Although the delivery mechanisms of this additional water are still being debated, it is generally agreed that the discharge of the Mojave River, which supplied water for several Pleistocene pluvial lakes along its course, must have been significantly greater during lake highstands. We used the 10Be concentrations of 10 individual quartzite pebbles sourced from the San Bernardino Mountains and collected from a ca. 25 ka strath terrace of the Mojave River near Barstow, California, to test whether pebble ages record the timing of large paleodischarge of the Mojave River. Our exposure ages indicate that periods of discharge large enough to transport pebble-sized sediment occurred at least 4 times over the past ∼240 k.y.; individual pebble ages cluster into 4 groups with exposure ages of 24.82 ± 4.36 ka (n = 3), 55.79 ± 3.67 ka (n = 2), 99.14 ± 12.07 ka (n = 4) and 239.9 ± 52.16 ka (n = 1). These inferred large discharge events occurred during both glacial and interglacial conditions. We demonstrate that bedload materials provide information about the frequency and duration of transport events in river systems. This approach could be further improved with additional measurements of one or more cosmogenic nuclides coupled with models of river discharge and pebble transport.
- Received 7 October 2014.
- Revision received 30 April 2015.
- Accepted 15 June 2015.
- © 2015 Geological Society of America