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Till stratigraphy and sedimentology at the margins of terrestrially terminating ice streams: case study of the western Canadian prairies and high plains

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Complex glacigenic sediment sequences arranged in large arcuate assemblages and demarcating the lobate termini of fast ice flow corridors in western Canada represent the terrestrial equivalents of the trough-mouth fans of the marine palaeo-ice stream record. Intensive sedimentological and stratigraphic investigations at a regional scale are employed in the interpretation of thick units or sequences of diamicton and two depositional scenarios are proposed. First, glacier-marginal till thickening and the stacking of till wedges takes place in areas where an ice stream margin was stationary for short periods of time. Stacks of subglacial traction tills potentially record annual sub-marginal incremental thickening at ice stream margins especially in areas where densely spaced recessional push moraines appear to record seasonal climatic forcing. Second, proglacial lake and valley infilling with glacilacustrine rhythmites and mass flow diamictons is associated with the advection of sub-marginal till into preglacial bedrock depressions and records ice stream marginal oscillations and debris influx into discontinuous proglacial lakes, which act as subaqueous sediment sinks for materials that would otherwise have been used to construct sub-marginal till wedges and moraines. Glacial overriding modifies the deposits produced in both scenarios through deformation and the dislocation and entrainment of bedrock and sediment rafts at the margins of bedrock valley walls, resulting in the widespread development of glacitectonites and megablocks. The occurrence of the thickest deposits as preglacial valley fills may be significant in groundwater siphoning away from subglacial deforming layers and the promotion of sticky spots.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-125
Number of pages46
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2012

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