The late Pleistocene geomagnetic field as recorded by sediments from Fargher Lake, Washington, U.S.A.

Seong Jae Doh, William K. Steele

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Measurement of the remanent magnetization of a 6.88-m oriented core of soft sediments and tephras from Fargher Lake near Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington State shows that no significant geomagnetic reversals were recorded in the sediments of the lake. Radiocarbon and palynological dating of the tephra layers from the lake bed indicates deposition during the interval 17,000-34,000 years B.P. although geochemical correlation of a prominent tephra layer in the core with tephra set C of Mount St. Helens could mean that the maximum age of the sediments may be at least 36,000 years B.P. The core was divided into specimens 0.02 m long, each representing approximately 55 years of deposition assuming a constant rate of sedimentation. Pilot alternating field demagnetization studies of every tenth specimen indicated a strong, stable remanence with median destructive field of 15 mT, and the remaining specimens were subsequently demagnetized in fields of this strength. The mean inclination for all specimens exclusive of the unstably magnetized muck and peat from near the surface is 56.1° which is 8° shallower than the present axial dipole field at this site, perhaps because of inclination error in the detrital remanent magnetization of the sediments, although because of the variability in the data, this departure from the axial dipole field may not be significant. The ranges of inclination and declination are comparable to those of normal secular variation at northern latitudes. Although three isolated specimens have remanence with negative inclination, these anomalous directions are due to sampling and depositional effects. Measurement of a second core of 6.86 m length also revealed only normal magnetic polarity, but this result is of little stratigraphic value as this core failed to penetrate the distinctive tephra found near the base of the former core. Studies of a concentrate of the magnetic minerals in the sediments by optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction indicate that the primary magnetic constituent is an essentially pure magnetite of detrital origin. The magnetite occurs in a wide range of grain sizes with much of it of sub-multidomain size (< 15 μm). As a whole, this study provides substantial evidence against the existence of large-scale worldwide geomagnetic reversals during the time interval of Fargher Lake sedimentation, a segment of geological time for which many excursions and reversals have been reported elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-398
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1983 Jun

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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