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Revolutionary ideas on glaciation

and its effects


• Louis Agassiz 1834, Swiss geologist
– recognized the significance of glacial erratics in the
Alps and worked out the glacial phases of Europe
– upon accomplishing that, he came to America and
converted an entire generation of doubting geologists
to his glaciation doctrine even as he became an
American citizen
• J. Harlan Bretz 1920’s
– recognized evidence of gigantic glacial floods in
eastern Washington
– converted a highly skeptical geologic community to
the fact of “jokulhlaups”
Harlan Bretz and his nutty idea
AKA Spokane Floods, Missoula Floods, Bretz Floods….

• Established a theory of glacial flooding on a


grand scale by building evidence slowly with
careful fieldwork in E. Washington
• Channeled Scablands, dry falls, coulees, glacial
erratics and monster fluvial ripples in the flood
pathway gave Bretz a compelling argument.
• Key to accepting Bretz’s ideas came with
Pardee’s recognition of Glacial (ice dammed)
Lake Missoula as source of floodwaters
• Bretz literally outlived his antagonists and his
theory is accepted today
Bretz Floods continued…
• There is even a modern feature in Northern
Europe (jokulhlaups) where we see today ice
dams and large scale, cyclic glacial flooding.
(classical uniformitarianism!)
• An even more profound discovery of the
“Touchet beds” near Walla Walla, WA shows
clear evidence of cyclic glacial flooding.
• Geologists now theorize there may have been
over 100 separate Bretz-type flood events where
Lake Missoula emptied and refilled over and
over again.
Ice Age specifics
• Earth’s distance from Sun, tilt of the axis, and
wobbling on its axis (precession) combine to
generate periodic glacial stages as outlined by
Yugoslavian astronomer Milutin Milankovitch in
1930 (“Milankovitch cycles”)
• Pleistocene glacial stages are ~100,000 yrs long
with 10,000 year warm “interglacial” phases
between
• Glaciation is the fastest and most effective
erosion agent on Earth!!
• During glaciation, geologic processes like
erosion and deposition speed up substiantially
Effects of Continental Glaciation
Onset
• Major global drop in sea level (eustatic) as water
is locked up as ice
• Rise in the CCD in the oceans (more very cold
water on ocean floors)
• Reduction in the amount of limestone and chalk
being precipitated globally
• Acceleration of both erosion and deposition
around glaciated terrains
• Increase in frequency, size and geographic
range of drop-stones (glaciated rafted clasts)
• Narrowing of belt of hermatypic (reef) type corals
Glacial Advance and Retreat
• Glacial Budget – Ice mass in glaciers
increases or decreases depending upon
global temperatures
• 2 zones- accumulation and ablation
• Accumulation zone at glacier’s head
receives new snowfall
• Ablation zone at toe loses ice to melting
Glacial Rebound
• Earth’s crust has a remarkable flexibility that
allows it to subside under extreme weights
then slowly rebound when weight is
removed.
• Much of central Greenland’s is presently
below sea level but if the continental glaciers
were to melt the land would rebound.
• As rebound occurs and the land rises along
a shoreline, a series of parallel beaches
leave a record of the retreating sea.
Earlier Ice Ages and Prognosis for
Future
• Major glaciation in pre-Cambrian ~ 2.2 billion y.a. –
glaciers may? have existed all the way to the equator!
• ~500 m.y.a. glaciers covered the Sahara (which was at
the South pole at the time!)
• Permian glaciation ~ 250 m.y.a. is evident in what was
“Gondwanaland” (Australia, S. America, India, S. Africa &
Antarctica) [remember the Dwyka tillite?]
• Pleistocene glaciation officially began ~ 1.8 m.y.a. &
ended ~ 11,000 yrs ago but significant cooling began as
much as 50 m.y.a.
• Geologic history suggests we are at the end of a 11,000
year interglacial (warm) phase and that we should have
gradual cooling before a full glacial age is established
23,000 years from now but human produced global
warming may? alter this cycle
Glaciation in Oregon
Valley glaciation only
• The Wallowas and Wallowa Lake
• The Steens Mountains, U-shaped canyons
• Glaciation around the Cascade peaks
• Glacial erratics and flood silts in the valley.
Willamette silt as a landslide hazard
• Westward displacement of streams in the
Willamette valley, Mill creek, Lake Labish
• Pluvial lakes in south central Oregon
• Oregon’s marvelous Pleistocene fossil
faunas and floras are preserved in bogs
Ice In The Sea
• Where are icebergs coming from?
• Tidewater glaciers
• Arctic vs. Antarctic icebergs
• Icebergs as sediment transport media,
glacial dropstones
• Fjords in New Zealand, British Columbia
and Greenland, Alaska’s inside passage
• The saga of the Titanic

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