Reconstruction of a Palaeo-Subglacial Lake Network in Alberta, Canada

Monday, 15 December 2014
Stephen John Livingstone1, Dan Utting2, Chris Clark1, Alastair Ruffell3, Steven Michael Pawley2, Nigel Atkinson2 and Gunnar Mallon1, (1)University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom, (2)Alberta Geological Survey, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (3)Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Subglacial lakes have been widely documented since first being identified beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet in the 1960s and comprise a significant component of the subglacial hydrological system (Wright & Siegert, 2011). However, their investigation is largely limited to contemporary ice masses despite critical information that could be gleaned from palaeo-subglacial lake studies, including: (i) their influence on meltwater drainage, ice flow and ice streams; (ii) details about how they relate to palaeo-floods, ice dynamics and sub-Milankovitch-scale climate events; and (iii) as archives of long-term Quaternary climate change. They are also readily available, we can sample the sediments and maps the landforms with ease and we have comprehensive information on the lake-bed properties.

Output from numerical ice sheet models and the simple Shreve equation approach has been used to diagnose where subglacial lakes are likely to have occurred in the geological record (Livingstone et al. 2013). However, their identification remains controversial due to the difficulty in distinguishing their signature from proglacial lake deposits (see Livingstone et al. 2012). Here, we present new geomorphological, geophysical and sedimentological evidence for the existence of a palaeo-subglacial lake network beneath the suture zone of the former Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets. These relatively small (~1 km diameter) palaeo-subglacial lakes manifest as flat-spots in a drumlin field and are perched in upland areas behind small ridges. The flat-spots, which comprise basins in-filled with diamicton, are associated with subglacial meltwater channels and eskers that we interpret to document lake drainage events.


Livingstone, S.J., et al., 2012. Quaternary Science Reviews,55, 88-110.

Livingstone, S.J., et al., 2013. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 375, 13-33.

Wright A.P., Siegert M.J. 2011. In: Siegert, M.J., Kennicutt, C., Bindschadler, B. (Eds.). Subglacial Antarctic Aquatic Environments, AGU Monograph.