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Palimpsest tunnel valleys: evidence for relative timing of advances in an interlobate area of the Laurentide ice sheet

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During retreat from the late Wisconsinan maximum advance in the Great Lakes region of North America, the Laurentide ice sheet margin became distinctly lobate. The Lake Michigan, Saginaw, and Huron–Erie lobes converged in southern Michigan and Indiana, U.S.A. to form a complex interlobate region. Some time after the glacial maximum, the Lake Michigan lobe advanced over landscapes previously formed by the Saginaw lobe. This can be explained by an asynchronous advance of the Lake Michigan lobe during a Saginaw lobe retreat or by an increase in size of the Lake Michigan lobe relative to the Saginaw lobe during a synchronous readvance.

Cross-cutting relationships in southwestern Michigan, including palimpsest tunnel valleys, document the overriding of Saginaw lobe terrain. Deep, generally straight trenches parallel to glacial flow lines with hummocky, irregular sides and bottoms are interpreted as tunnel valleys. Saginaw lobe tunnel valleys trend northeast–southwest and Lake Michigan lobe tunnel valleys generally trend east–west.

At some time after a Saginaw lobe retreat in southern Michigan, the drumlinized landscape was overridden by an advance of the Lake Michigan lobe to an ice-marginal position at the Tekonsha moraine. Saginaw lobe tunnel valleys in the overridden area were completely filled with ice and debris from the Saginaw lobe retreat at the time of the Lake Michigan lobe advance. Supraglacial and proglacial sediments were deposited over the buried valleys by the Lake Michigan lobe, sometimes by meltwater streams that flowed at high angles to the trends of the valleys. After entrenchment of the Kalamazoo River valley, probably by a subglacial outburst flood, short tributaries were cut nearly at right angles across and through the debris and ice within several buried Saginaw lobe tunnel valleys. After the retreat of the Lake Michigan lobe, subsequent melting of ice in the palimpsest tunnel valleys exhumed the valleys, creating the cross-cutting relationships with the Lake Michigan lobe deposits.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1999

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

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