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Beryllium-10 dating of the Foothills Erratics Train in Alberta, Canada, indicates detachment of the Laurentide Ice Sheet from the Rocky Mountains at ~15 ka

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2019

Martin Margold*
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Science, 128 43 Praha 2, Czech Republic
John C. Gosse
Department of Earth Sciences, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2, Canada
Alan J. Hidy
Centre for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550, USA
Robin J. Woywitka
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada
Joseph M. Young
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada
Duane Froese
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada
*Corresponding author at: e-mail address: (M. Margold).


The Foothills Erratics Train consists of large quartzite blocks of Rocky Mountains origin deposited on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountain Foothills in Alberta between ~53.5°N and 49°N. The blocks were deposited in their present locations when the western margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) detached from the local ice masses of the Rocky Mountains, which initiated the opening of the southern end of the ice-free corridor between the Cordilleran Ice Sheet and the LIS. We use 10Be exposure dating to constrain the beginning of this decoupling. Based on a group of 12 samples well-clustered in time, we date the detachment of the western LIS margin from the Rocky Mountain front to ~14.9 ± 0.9 ka. This is ~1000 years later than previously assumed, but a lack of a latitudinal trend in the ages over a distance of ~500 km is consistent with the rapid opening of a long wedge of unglaciated terrain portrayed in existing ice-retreat reconstructions. A later separation of the western LIS margin from the mountain front implies higher ice margin–retreat rates in order to meet the Younger Dryas ice margin position near the boundary of the Canadian Shield ~2000 years later.

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Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2019

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