Multiple Nonconformities in Ice-Walled Lake Successions Indicate Periods with Cold Summers (24.4 – 22.5 ka, 21.1 – 19.2 ka, 18.5 – 18.1 ka) during the Last Deglaciation in Northeastern Illinois, USA

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ben Brandon Curry, Illinois State Geological Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, United States
Unprecedented age control on many last glacial stratigraphic units and morainal ice-margin positions are interpreted from AMS radiocarbon ages of tundra plant macrofossils archived in low-relief ice-walled lake plain (IWLP) deposits the Lake Michigan Lobe (south-central Laurentide Ice Sheet). IWLPs are periglacial features that formed on morainal dead-ice permafrost. Lacustrine sediment, and the fossils contained therein, had physical and temporal proximity to the glacier which formed the underlying moraine. In modern ice-walled lakes, as the lake’s ice cover begins to melt, moats form which allows access of sloughing tundra-mantled active layer sediment (soil) into the lakes. Multiple AMS ages from two sites with proglacial sediment buried by glacial max LIS diamicton, and IWLPs reveal evidence of episodic plant growth and sedimentation including ca. 24.0 to 24.4 ka (post Shelby Phase), 22.5 to 21.1 ka (post Livingston Phase), 18.1 to 17.4 ka (post Woodstock Phase). Although presently based on negative evidence, the associated nonconformities (listed in title) indicate periods when cold conditions did not promote development of the estival moat. Although the evidence does not preclude tundra growth during the cold summers, there was little landscape modification due to limited thawing of the active layer.

At approximately the onset of the 19.2-18.5 “warm” period, at least two large deglacial discharge events flooded the Fox and Kankakee tributary valleys of the Illinois River. The latter, known as the Kankakee Torrent, occurred at 19.05 – 18.85 ka (σ1 range) at the Oswego channel complex. The temporal coincidence of the torrents and sedimentation in ice-walled lakes suggests that the post-Livingston Phase nonconformity (21.1 – 19.2 ka) was a period of lessened meltwater discharge through subglacial conduits (tunnel valleys) as the frozen toe promoted formation of subglacial lakes, buildup of pore-water pressures, and the release of subglacial water as “torrents”. In the case of the Fox and Kankakee torrents, ice-marginal discharge first flowed into proglacial lakes which ultimately breached moraines, resulting in catastrophic “torrents”. Hence, present knowledge does not allow determination of the nature of the subglacial release (catastrophic vs. large, steady discharge).