Evidence for Early Pleistocene Glaciation obtained from borecores collected in East-Central Alberta, Canada

Monday, 15 December 2014
Rene W Barendregt, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada, Laurence Andriashek, Alberta Geological Survey, Alberta Energy Regulator, Edmonton, AB, Canada and Lionel E Jackson, Geological Survey of Canada Pacific, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Borecores collected from the east-central region of Alberta, Canada have recently been sub-sampled and studied for paleomagnetic remanence characteristics. A preliminary magnetostratigraphy has been established for sediments previously assumed to represent multiple continental (Laurentide) glaciations, but for which no geochronology was available for the pre-late Wisconsin units. Comprised primarily of tills and lesser thicknesses of interbedded glacio-lacustrine and outwash sediments, the record is extensive, reaching to thicknesses of 300 metres within buried valleys. Most of the sampled units are not accessible from outcrop, and their sedimentology and stratigraphy is derived from core data only. The lowermost tills are reversely magnetized in the majority of borecores sampled to date. These tills are underlain by Empress Formation sediments and/or Colorado Group shales, and overlain by normally magnetized sediments. Both tills contain substantial weathering horizons at their surface, suggesting that interglacial or nonglacial conditions persisted for some time after each period of till deposition. Whether these tills represent a single Early Pleistocene glaciation, or perhaps two, will require additional borecore measurements. This new record of Early Pleistocene glaciation(s) in east-central Alberta places the westernmost extent of earliest Laurentide ice some 300 km farther westward from its previously established limit in the Saskatoon to Regina region of the western Canadian prairies, but still well short of the all-time limit and elevation reached during the Late Wisconsin (Late Pleistocene) in the foothills of the Alberta and Montana Rocky Mountains.

Key Words: East-Central Alberta glacial history, Early Pleistocene (Laurentide) glaciation, till magnetostratigraphy, Quaternary history of Western Canadian Prairies, continental glaciations of North America.