Provenance of Des Moines lobe till records ice-stream catchment evolution during Laurentide deglaciation

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Mapping and analysis of deposits of the Des Moines lobe of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, active after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), reveal several texturally and lithologically distinct tills within what had been considered to be a homogeneous deposit. Although the differences between tills are subtle, minor distinctions are predictable and mappable, and till sheets within the area covered by the lobe can be correlated for hundreds of kilometres parallel to ice flow. Lateral till-sheet contacts are abrupt or overlap in a narrow zone, coincident with a geomorphic discontinuity interpreted to be a shear margin. Till sheets 10 to 20m thick show mixing in their lower 2 to 3m. We suggest that: (i) lithologically distinct till sheets correspond to unique ice-stream source areas; (ii) the sequence of tills deposited by the Des Moines lobe was the result of the evolution and varying dominance of nearby and competing ice streams and their tributaries; and (iii) in at least one instance, more than one ice stream simultaneously contributed to the lobe. Therefore the complex sequence of tills of subtly different provenances, and the unconformities between them record the evolution of an ice-catchment area during Laurentide Ice Sheet drawdown. Till provenance data suggest that, after till is created in the ice-stream source area, the subglacial conditions required for transporting till decline and incorporation of new material is limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-597
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


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