Climate Change in the Western US & California

Sarah Feakins
Water Level at the Hoover Dam in 2016

We are researching past climate change in California. The goal is to bring a longer term perspective and to water management. We bring new tools to bear on questions of the severity and processes driving wet and dry cycles in California. Lessons from the past inform discussions of the California’s drought and prognosis for future water scarcity – see press page.

We are reconstructing past climate variability at three sites:

  • Searles Lake, in the Mojave desert, with sediment cores extending to the past warm period 120, 000 years ago.
    • In collaboration with David McGee MIT and Tim Lowenstein SUNY.
  • Zaca Lake, close to the Santa Barbara Basin, with sediment cores capturing high resolution records of the last 3, 000 years.
  • Lake Elsinore, in Riverside County, with sediment cores capturing the last glacial and 30, 000 years.

Zaca Lake, California

Zaca Lake


Wu, M.S.*, Feakins, S.J., Kirby, M.E., Menviel, L., Ponton, C*, Rhodes, E.J. Abrupt hydroclimate shifts in late Glacial southern California, in review Quaternary Science Reviews.

Kirby, M.E., Feakins, S.J., Hiner, C.A.*, Zimmerman, S.R.H., Fantozzi, J.* 2014. Tropical Pacific forcing of late-Holocene hydrologic variability in the coastal southwest United States, Quaternary Science Reviews, 102, 27-38. article

Ibarra, Y.*, Corsetti, F.A., Feakins, S.J., Rhodes, E.J., Kirby, M.E. 2015. Fluvial tufa evidence of Late Pleistocene wet intervals from Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 422, 36-45. article

Dingemans, T.*, Mensing, S.A., Feakins, S.J., Kirby, M.K., Zimmerman, S.R.H., 2014. 3000 years of paleoenvironmental change at Zaca Lake, California, USA, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2:34. article

Ibarra, Y.*; Corsetti, F.A., Cheetham, M.I.*, Feakins, S.J. 2014. Were fossil spring-associated carbonates near Zaca Lake, Santa Barbara, California deposited under an ambient or thermal regime? Sedimentary Geology, 301, 15-25. article

Feakins, S.J., Kirby, M.E., Cheetham, M.I.*, Ibarra, Y.*, Zimmerman, S.R.H., 2014. Leaf wax D/H reconstructions of late Holocene hydroclimate from Zaca Lake, California, Organic Geochemistry, 66, 48-59. article

Kirby, M.E., Feakins, S.J., Bonuso, N., Fantozzi, J.M., Hiner, C.A., 2013. Latest Pleistocene to Holocene hydroclimates from Lake Elsinore, California, Quaternary Science Reviews, 76, 1-15. article