Geomorphic and climatic change over the past 12,900yr at Swiftcurrent Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Kelly R. MacGregor, Catherine A. Riihimaki, Amy Myrbo, Mark D. Shapley, Krista Jankowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Glaciated alpine landscapes are sensitive to changes in climate. Shifts in temperature and precipitation can cause significant changes to glacier size and terminus position, the production and delivery of organic mass, and in the hydrologic energy related to the transport of water and sediment through proglacial environments. A sediment core representing a 12,900-yr record collected from Swiftcurrent Lake, located on the eastern side of Glacier National Park, Montana, was analyzed to assess variability in Holocene and latest Pleistocene environment. The spectral signature of total organic carbon content (%TOC) since ~. 7.6. ka matches that of solar forcing over 70-500. yr timescales. Periodic inputs of dolomite to the lake reflect an increased footprint of Grinnell Glacier, and occur during periods when sediment sinks are reduced, glacial erosion is increased, and hydrologic energy is increased. Grain size, carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratios, and %TOC broadly define the termination of the Younger Dryas chronozone at Swiftcurrent Lake, as well as major Holocene climate transitions. Variability in core parameters is linked to other records of temperature and aridity in the northern Rocky Mountains over the late Pleistocene and Holocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-90
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Macalester College Wallace Faculty Research Fund (to KRM), the American Philosophical Society Lewis and Clark Research Fund (to CAR), and Dan Fagre, Blase Reardon, and the Many Glacier Park Rangers for financial and logistical support. Thanks to Kevin Thiessen for his generosity in the use of his Elemental Analyzer, and to Emily Dunn, Hannah Wydeven, Don Barber and Camille Jones for laboratory assistance. We thank the LacCore facility for field and lab support. Special thanks to Justin Revenaugh for assistance with the spectral analyses. We are grateful to Eric Leonard and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments that improved the manuscript.


  • Glacier National Park
  • Grain size
  • Holocene
  • Lake sediment core
  • Mazama ash
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Solar forcing
  • Sunspot cycle
  • Total organic carbon
  • Younger Dryas


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