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Numerical modeling of the Snowmass Creek paleoglacier, Colorado, and climate in the Rocky Mountains during the Bull Lake glaciation (MIS 6)

  • Eric M. Leonard (a1), Mitchell A. Plummer (a2) and Paul E. Carrara (a3)


Well-preserved moraines from the penultimate, or Bull Lake, glaciation of Snowmass Creek Valley in the Elk Range of Colorado (USA) present an opportunity to examine the character of the high-altitude climate in the Rocky Mountains during Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 6. This study employs a 2-D coupled mass/energy balance and flow model to assess the magnitudes of temperature and precipitation change that could have sustained the glacier in mass-balance equilibrium at its maximum extent during the Bull Lake glaciation. Variable substrate effects on glacier flow and ice thickness make the modeling somewhat more complex than in geologically simpler settings. Model results indicate that a temperature depression of about 6.7°C compared with the present (1971–2000 AD) would have been necessary to sustain the Snowmass Creek glacier in mass-balance equilibrium during the Bull Lake glaciation, assuming no change in precipitation amount or seasonality. A 50% increase or decrease from modern precipitation would have been coupled with 5.2°C and 9.1°C Bull Lake temperature depressions respectively. Uncertainty in these modeled temperature depressions is about 1°C.


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Corresponding author.E-mail address: (E.M. Leonard).


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Numerical modeling of the Snowmass Creek paleoglacier, Colorado, and climate in the Rocky Mountains during the Bull Lake glaciation (MIS 6)

  • Eric M. Leonard (a1), Mitchell A. Plummer (a2) and Paul E. Carrara (a3)


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