Glacial History of the Late Wisconsinan Des Moines Lobe in Minnesota: Geomorphic, Lithologic and Stratigraphic Evidence for Two Advances

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Glacial History of the Late Wisconsinan Des Moines Lobe in Minnesota: Geomorphic, Lithologic and Stratigraphic Evidence for Two Advances

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Continental ice sheets play a significant role in the Earth’s climatic system. Reconstructing the growth and decay of the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum betters our understanding of how ice sheets respond to climate change and contribute to rising global sea levels. The southwestern margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet formed discrete terrestrial lobes, influenced by bed topography. The Des Moines lobe (DML), channeled by the Red River and Minnesota River valleys, advanced to a terminal position in central Iowa. Four dated ice margins provide chronological constraints for regional correlations: the Bemis at ~17.0 ka cal BP, the Altamont at ~16.2 ka cal BP, Algona at ~14.8 ka cal BP, and the Big Stone moraine at ~14.0 ka cal BP, which marks the transition to what is known as the Red River lobe. The number and timing of DML phases were reconstructed using multiple lines of evidence derived from geomorphic, lithologic, and stratigraphic analyses. In a study area located in southwestern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota, the delineation of subglacial bedforms was used to identify lateral shear margins positioned at the base of topographic highs. Locations of lateral shear margins also correlate to continuous glacial landforms and the greatest compositional variability within the till sheet, observed from modeling 451 DML till sample sites. Spatial relationships indicate that a single, heterogenous till sheet is surfically exposed throughout the study area and bed topography may have influenced ice-flow dynamics to generate faster flow. Correlations of moraines with the stratigraphy of Late-Wisconsinan sediments indicate there is one continuous basal till unit capped by discontinuous sorted, unsorted, and interbedded sediments that extends from the Bemis margin and continues up-ice of the Altamont moraine. A second till sheet overlies this stratigraphy north of the Algona moraine in Minnesota. Results suggest that the DML experienced two phases. The first, associated with the Bemis advance, is followed by a systematic retreat from the study area and reorganization of the ice mass. A second advance is associated with the Algona margin. The onset of global warming, defined by Greenland Interstade 1 (GI-1), occurred soon after the Algona advance at ~ 14.7 ka cal BP. Rapid climate change caused widespread stagnation and ice retreat to the Big Stone margin at a rate of 250 meters/year. The scale of stagnation and resulting surficial landforms is a unique response to unprecedented global warming associated with the GI-1 and probably not representative of earlier DML ice behavior. The ages of proglacial lakes that bound the Big Stone moraine suggest the margin is a recessional feature and does not represent a third advance.


[A Plan B Project] submitted to the faculty of the University of Minnesota by Heather E. Arends in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science, May 2024. Advisor: Dr. Howard D. Mooers.

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