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Chronology of latest Pleistocene mountain glaciation in the western Wasatch Mountains, Utah, U.S.A.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Benjamin J. C. Laabs*
Department of Geological Sciences, SUNY Geneseo, 1 College Circle, Geneseo, New York, USA, 14454
David W. Marchetti
Geology Program, Western State College of Colorado, USA
Jeffrey S. Munroe
Department of Geology, Middlebury College, Vermont, USA
Kurt A. Refsnider
INSTAAR, University of Colorado-Boulder, USA
John C. Gosse
Department of Earth Sciences, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada
Elliott W. Lips
Department of Geography, University of Utah, USA
Richard A. Becker
University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
David M. Mickelson
University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Brad S. Singer
University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Corresponding author. E-mail (B.J.C. Laabs), (D.W. Marchetti), (J.S. Munroe), Kurt.Refsnider@Colorado.Edu (K.A. Refsnider), (J.C. Gosse), (E.W. Lips), (R.A. Becker), (D.M. Mickelson), (B.S. Singer).


Understanding the timing of mountain glacier and paleolake expansion and retraction in the Great Basin region of the western United States has important implications for regional-scale climate change during the last Pleistocene glaciation. The relative timing of mountain glacier maxima and the well-studied Lake Bonneville highstand has been unclear, however, owing to poor chronological limits on glacial deposits. Here, this problem is addressed by applying terrestrial cosmogenic 10Be exposure dating to a classic set of terminal moraines in Little Cottonwood and American Fork Canyons in the western Wasatch Mountains. The exposure ages indicate that the main phase of deglaciation began at 15.7 ± 1.3 ka in both canyons. This update to the glacial chronology of the western Wasatch Mountains can be reconciled with previous stratigraphic observations of glacial and paleolake deposits in this area, and indicates that the start of deglaciation occurred during or at the end of the Lake Bonneville hydrologic maximum. The glacial chronology reported here is consistent with the growing body of data suggesting that mountain glaciers in the western U.S. began retreating as many as 4 ka after the start of northern hemisphere deglaciation (at ca. 19 ka).

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