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Evidence for Cirque Glaciation in the Colorado Front Range during the Younger Dryas Chronozone

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Brian Menounos
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Campus Box 450, Boulder, Colorado, 80309-0450
Mel A. Reasoner
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Campus Box 450, Boulder, Colorado, 80309-0450


Late Pleistocene glacial chronologies developed for the Front Range Mountains of Colorado include two or more cirque glacier advances, locally known as the Satanta Peak Advances. Sediment cores were recovered from Sky Pond, an alpine lake (3320 m) located less than 100 m downvalley from a moraine that exhibits late Pleistocene to early Holocene relative age features and appears to correlate to the Satanta Peak deposits. One of the cores penetrated 0.5 m of basal diamict and recovered 3.3 m of overlying sediments that are predominantly gyttja. An accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) age of 12,040 ± 60 yr14C B.P. was obtained from directly above the basal diamict and is similar to other reported ages for cirque deglaciation in the Front Range Mountains. The lower portion of the gyttja contains an interval of clastic sediments that show characteristics consistent with glacial activity in alpine catchments. Radiocarbon ages obtained from below and near the upper contact of this clastic interval are 11,070 ± 50 and 9970 ± 8014C yr B.P., respectively. An additional AMS age of 10,410 ± 9014C yr B.P. was obtained from within the clastic interval in a second core. The most likely source for this interval of clastic sediments is a moraine situated directly upvalley from Sky Pond, and consequently, it appears that the deposition of this moraine was coeval with the European Younger Dryas event (11,000–10,00014C yr B.P.). Similarities in soil development, weathering features, and altitude between this moraine and the type Satanta Peak moraines suggest that the moraines are correlative. These findings are in agreement with a growing body of evidence that suggests a relatively minor advance of alpine glaciers occurred in the North American Rockies during the Younger Dryas Chron.

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University of Washington

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