Neoglacial (<3000 years) till and flutes at Saskatchewan Glacier, Canadian Rocky Mountains, formed by subglacial deformation of a soft bed

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Abstract

Understanding the processes that deposit till below modern glaciers provides fundamental information for interpreting ancient subglacial deposits. A process-deposit-landform model is developed for the till bed of Saskatchewan Glacier in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The glacier is predominantly hard bedded in its upper reaches and flows through a deep valley carved into resistant Palaeozoic carbonates but the ice margin rests on a thick (<6 m) soft bed of silt-rich deformation till that has been exposed as the glacier retreats from its Little Ice Age limit reached in 1854. In situ tree stumps rooted in a palaeosol under the till are dated between ca 2900 and 2700 yr bp and record initial glacier expansion during the Neoglacial. Sedimentological and stratigraphic observations underscore the importance of subglacial deformation of glaciofluvial outwash deposited in front of the advancing glacier and mixing with glaciolacustrine carbonate-rich silt to form a soft bed. The exposed till plain has a rolling drumlinoid topography inherited from overridden end moraines and is corrugated by more than 400 longitudinal flute ridges which record deformation of the soft bed and fall into three genetically related types: those developed in propagating incipient cavities in the lee of large subglacial boulders embedded in deformation till, and those lacking any originating boulder and formed by pressing of wet till up into radial crevasses under stagnant ice. A third type consists of U-shaped flutes akin to barchan dunes; these wrap around large boulders at the downglacier ends of longitudinal scours formed by the bulldozing of boulders by the ice front during brief winter readvances across soft till. Pervasive subglacial deformation during glacier expansion was probably facilitated by large boulders rotating within the soft bed (‘glacioturbation’).

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