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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.
Cosmogenic 10Be ages on boulders of 54–51 ka (n=4) on a penultimate Cordilleran ice sheet (CIS) drift confirm that Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 4 (early Wisconsin) glaciation was extensive in parts of Yukon Territory, the first confirmed evidence in the Canadian Cordillera. We name the glaciation inferred from the mapped and dated drift the Gladstone. These results are in apparent contrast to the MIS 6 (Illinoian) age of the penultimate Reid glaciation to the east in central Yukon but are equivalent to exposure ages on MIS 4 drift in Alaska. Contrasting penultimate ice extents in Yukon requires that different source areas of the northern CIS in Yukon responded differently to climatic forcing during glaciations. The variation in glacier extent for different source areas likely relates to variation in precipitation during glaciation, as the northern CIS was a precipitation-limited system. Causes for a variation in precipitation remain unclear but likely involve the style of precipitation delivery over the St. Elias Mountains possibly related to variations in the Aleutian low.
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).
In July 1988, the FlatFish Range Fire burned over the type-Pinedale moraines at Fremont Lake, Wyoming, and caused extensive exfoliation of exposed boulder surfaces. The mass of exfoliated material from 130 of 1030 boulders investigated was measured and recorded with information concerning factors that could influence the extent of fire-induced exfoliation. The range in thickness of material removed from 98 randomly selected boulders within the burn area (averaged over the entire exposed boulder surface area) is 6.1 to < 0.1 mm. The mean thickness loss for all 98 boulders is 0.9 mm/fire and the expected loss from individual boulders (median) is 0.4 mm/fire. At the 95% confidence level there is no significant relationship between the degree of exfoliation and boulder size, lithology, grain size, proximity to vegetation, or vegetation density. The expected fire-induced boulder surface erosion rates range from 5.9 to 0.3 x 10-3 mm/yr on boulders in sagebrush rangeland where fire recurrence intervals are typically every 20 to 400 yr. Fire-induced exfoliation may account for differences in boulder size and abundance on Pinedale and Bull Lake moraines. Surface dating methods using varnish or cosmogenic nuclides may yield exposure ages that are too young if the consequences of range fires are not considered when sampling boulder surfaces that are within about 2 m above ground level.
Measurements of cosmogenic nuclides made in situ in the Earth's surface are being used to help resolve a wide range of geologic and chronologic questions. Cosmogenic nuclides (3He, 10Be, 14C, 21Ne, 26Al 36C1 are presently used) can reveal rock exposure history information leading to estimates of timing of surface forming events, rates and styles of erosion, and timing and durations of episodes of burial. Depending on the problems being tackled, a significant source of error (±10–25%) for any cosmogenic nuclide method is the present uncertainty in the spatial and temporal variability of the rates of production of these in-situ nuclides.
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