Application of Brillouin thermometry to latest Pleistocene and Holocene halite from Searles Lake, California, USA

Kristian J. Olson, Emmanuel Guillerm, Mark D. Peaple, Tim K. Lowenstein, Véronique Gardien, Frédéric Caupin, Sarah J. Feakins, Jessica E. Tierney, Justin Stroup, Steve Lund, David McGee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Paleoclimate records from lakes of the southwestern USA have been limited by a lack of independent paleothermometers, resulting in conflicting characterizations of millennial-scale variability in temperature and moisture. Here a novel method called Brillouin thermometry is applied to halite-bearing dry intervals of the late Pleistocene/Holocene (45–0 ka) core record of Searles Lake, California. Temperatures during muddy wetter intervals are available from branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs). Halite from the sediment-water interface records lake bottom temperatures during dry, high salinity periods. Analysis of modern saline lakes of various chemistries, depths, climate zones, and mixing regimes shows that: 1) average bottom water temperature is approximately equal to mean annual air temperature, and 2) annual range of bottom water temperature is inversely proportional to lake depth. Brillouin temperatures for eight halite intervals 30.6 ka to 8.5 ka range from 11.8 ± 3.6 to 22.4 ± 3.2 °C. Bottom water temperature variability indicates paleolake depths of ∼10 m during halite precipitation. Temperatures from brGDGTs for mud intervals 44.7 ka to 3.6 ka range from 13.4 ± 2.8 to 23.9 ± 3.0 °C. Comparisons of Brillouin temperatures with predicted equilibrium temperatures of salt crystallization shed light on seasonal processes of evaporite deposition and diagenesis. The multiproxy temperature record of Searles Lake agrees with other regional records at glacial/interglacial timescales but displays a wider degree of millennial-scale variability, with temperatures during the last glacial ranging from 8.3 °C below modern mean annual temperatures to 3.8 °C above.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117913
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Jan 15 2023


  • Brillouin thermometry
  • GDGTs
  • Searles Lake
  • evaporites
  • fluid inclusions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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