Preliminary Cosmogenic Nuclide Chronology of Late Pleistocene Missoula Floods

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Andrea Balbas1, Jorie Clark1, Peter U Clark1, Marc W Caffey2, Thomas E Woodruff2 and Victor R Baker3, (1)Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States, (2)Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States, (3)University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States
The Missoula floods had the largest known peak flood discharges of fresh water known from the geologic record. Multiple floods are believed to have originated from the failure of the Purcell trench ice lobe, which dammed glacial Lake Missoula. The flood waters traveled westward creating the Channeled Scabland region, a spectacular complex of anastomosing channels, coulees, cataracts, loess islands, rock basins, broad gravel deposits, and immense gravel bars in east-central Washington State. Several important questions about the Missoula floods and the formation of the Channeled Scabland remain, primarily due to the few geochronological constraints on their timing. Attempts to date the duration of the multiple floods have produced a wide range of ages (13-19 ka from land deposits and 13-31 ka from marine cores), but few of these directly constrain the age of the major flood landscape elements. Here we present 14 new in situ cosmogenic 10Be ages from quartz-bearing boulders deposited at four sites in eastern Washington. Wallula Gap is a narrow constriction along the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. Hydraulic damming of floodwater at Wallula Gap created glacial Lake Lewis. Surface exposure ages on large boulders found at over 300 m elevation above the river at this site will date the largest flood events. The Wenatchee region represents the most northwestern area influenced by flooding. Dates from this area will determine when flooding occurred after the retreat of the Okanogan lobe. We sampled boulders from the lower Pangborn Bar, ice-rafted boulders north of Wenatchee, and boulders from a flood bar on the Columbia River north of Wenatchee. A boulder from the Mattawa Fan was sampled to assess the last time a megaflood came through the Sentinel Gap. Finally, in order to constrain the last debris dam failure at the southern end of the Upper Grand Coulee, we sampled flood boulders deposited on the Ephrata Fan.