Deglaciation of the Cordillera of Western Canada at the end of the Pleistocene

J.J. Clague

Abstract


Nearly all of what is now British Columbia and adjacent areas were covered by an ice sheet at the maximum of the Last Glaciation (MIS 2) about 18,000 years ago. By 11,000 years ago, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet had disappeared, a victim of warming climate, eustatic sea-level rise along its western margin, and perhaps a reduction in precipitation. Deglaciation proceeded by frontal retreat at the periphery of the ice sheet and by downwasting, complex frontal retreat, and localized stagnation in its interior areas. The chronology of deglaciation is constrained, albeit with inherent dating errors, by AMS radiocarbon and 10Be surface exposure ages. High-elevation sites at the western margin of the British Columbia Interior Plateau, east of the Coast Mountains, became ice-free between about 15,000 and 12,000 years ago. Ice cover in the southern Coast Mountains was sufficiently extensive during the Younger Dryas Chronozone (12,900-11,700 years ago) that glaciers advanced into low-lying areas north and east of Vancouver. At the same time, however, a labyrinth of dead or dying tongues of glacier ice covered some interior valleys. By 11,000 years ago, ice cover in the Canadian Cordillera was no more extensive than it is today.

Keywords


Deglaciation; Cordilleran Ice Sheet; British Columbia; Yukon Territory; Geochronology

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18172/cig.3232

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