Comparison of varve and 14C chronologies from Steel Lake, Minnesota, USA

Jian Tian, Thomas A. Brown, Feng Sheng Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Annually laminated sediments (varves) offer an effective means of acquiring high-quality palaeoenvironmental records. However, the strength of a varve chronology can be compromised by a number of factors, such as missing varves, ambiguous laminations and human counting error. We assess the quality of a varve chronology for the last three millennia from Steel Lake, Minnesota, through comparisons with nine AMS 14C dates on terrestrial plant macrofossils from the same core. These comparisons revealed an overall 8.4% discrepancy, primarily because of missing/uncountable varves within two stratigraphic intervals characterized by low carbonate concentrations and obscure laminations. Application of appropriate correction factors to these two intervals results in excellent agreement between the varve and 14C chronologies. These results, together with other varve studies, demonstrate that an independent age-determination method, such as 14C dating, is usually necessary to verify, and potentially correct, varve chronologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-517
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2005


  • C chronology
  • Counting error
  • Laminated sediment
  • Late Holocene
  • Minnesota
  • Palaeoclimate
  • Steel Lake
  • Varve chronology
  • Varve-count adjustment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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