Latest Pleistocene advance of alpine glaciers in the southwestern Uinta Mountains, Utah, USA: Evidence for the influence of local moisture sources

Published in:

Geology 34,10 (2006) 841-844;


Cosmogenic surface-exposure Be-10 dating of Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) moraines indicates that glaciers in the southwestern Uinta Mountains remained at their maximum positions until ca. 16.8 +/- 0.7 ka, similar to 2 k.y. after glaciers in the neighboring Wind River Range and Colorado Rockies began to retreat. The timing of the local LGM in the southwestern Uintas overlaps with both the hydrologic maximum of Lake Bonneville and preliminary estimates of the local LGM in the western Wasatch Mountains. This broad synchroneity indicates that Lake Bonneville and glaciers in northern Utah were responding to similar climate forcing. Furthermore, equilibrium line altitudes (ELAs) for reconstructed LGM alpine glaciers increase with distance from the Lake Bonneville shoreline, rising from similar to 2600 m to similar to 3200 m over the 120 km length of the glaciated Uintas. This pronounced ELA gradient suggests that the magnitude of the latest Pleistocene glacial advance in the western Uintas was due, at least in part, to enhanced precipitation derived from Lake Bonneville; thus, the lake acted as a local amplifier of regional climate forcing. This relationship underscores the sensitivity of alpine glaciers to moisture availability during the latest Pleistocene, and further demonstrates the importance of local moisture sources on glacier mass balance.


last glacial maximum;; alpine glaciers;; climate;; rocky mountains;; late pleistocene;; equilibrium-line altitudes;; lake bonneville;; climate-change;; maximum;; surfaces;; montana

Date of this Version

January 2006

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