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Using GIS to Evaluate an Enigmatic Diamicton in the Spring Mountains, Southern Nevada

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The Spring Mountains are located in southern Nevada and lie along the western margin of the Las Vegas Valley. A diamicton located approximately 2,590 m (8,500 ft) above sea level in the Spring Mountains contains numerous striated limestone clasts ranging in size from 0.5 cm to 1.0 m. There are a variety of physical processes that can produce diamictons, and glacial geologists are often faced with the task of deciding what process controlled the formation of enigmatic diamictons. One characteristic distinctive to glacially derived diamictons is the presence of parallel surface striations on transported clasts. This study presents a GIS-based methodology used to evaluate surface striations on limestone clasts sampled from the Spring Mountain diamicton in southern Nevada. Using a combination of graphical software, ArcView GIS, and Avenue scripting, we streamlined the process of measuring and analyzing orientation values from individual surface striations. The results demonstrate a well-developed preferred orientation for clast striations and support our working hypothesis that the Spring Mountain diamicton is glacial in origin. If we accept a glacial origin, the presence of this deposit at 36° north latitude suggests the Spring Mountains represent the southernmost extent of Late Quaternary glaciation in the Great Basin.
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Keywords: GIS; diamicton; glacial geology; orientation; striations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 May 2003

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