Evaluating the size and extent of paleolakes in central Tibet during the late Pleistocene

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Geophysical Research Letters (2017)




Subhorizontal lake shorelines allow a geodynamic test of the size and extent of a hypothesized paleolake in central Tibet, the East Qiangtang Lake (EQL), during the last interglacial period (marine isotope stage (MIS) 5e). Reconstructions based on relict lake deposits suggest that the EQL would have been ~400 m deep and over ~66,000 km2. Models of flexural rebound driven by lake recession predict that shorelines near the EQL center, at the present-day location of Siling Co, would have rebounded 6090 m above their initial elevation. New 36Cl chronology of the highest relict shorelines around Siling Co indicates that they reflect lake levels between 110 and 190 ka. These shorelines, however, are presently >300 m below their predicted elevations, implying a substantially smaller water load. Our results reveal that the expansion of Tibetan lakes during MIS 5e was relatively limited. Instead, individual lakes were supplied by river networks, much as they are today.