Seismic Reflection and Electrical Resistivity Imaging Support Pre-Quaternary Glaciation in the Rocky Mountains (Unaweep Canyon, Colorado)

Anna Patterson, Michael Behm, Werner Chwatal, Adrian Flores-Orozco, Yichuan Wang, Gerilyn S. Soreghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Unaweep Canyon (Uncompahgre Plateau, Colorado) represents an enigmatic landscape with a complex evolution. Interpretations for its origin have ranged from ancestral fluvial erosion in the late Cenozoic to glacial erosion in the Paleozoic, or some combination thereof, with significant implications for global climatic and large-scale tectonic reconstructions. To address the conflicting interpretations, we acquired a high-resolution seismic reflection profile to investigate the depth, structure, and sedimentary infill in the canyon. The data set is further complemented with an electrical resistivity survey. Integrated with other geophysical and geological data, the results show an overdeepened Precambrian basement with transverse U shape and support the hypothesis of a pre-Quaternary glacial origin. Our data constitute the first detailed image of a buried pre-Quaternary glacial valley in North America; if substantiated with core studies, these results have far-reaching implications for our understanding of global ice houses as well as the tectonic conditions, enabling preservation of such systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GL094706
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 28 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The acquisition would not have been possible without the dedication of the field crew (P. Ratre, F. Cheng, J. Chang, and A. Eddy) and the expertise of G. Kaip and S. Harder (Seismic Source Facility, UTEP). IRIS-PASSCAL provided Texan receivers. We thank Scott Lissoy and the Moores family for property access and support and are indebted to Nancy Smith and the entire Gateway community for their hospitality. Data were processed using software donations from Haliburton and Schlumberger. Acquisition was partly funded through NSF-EAR- 1338331 and NSF-EAR- 1849623. We thank Fernando Vesely and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive and helpful reviews.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


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