Although the story on glacier fluctuations in northwestern North America over the last 10,000 years has remained largely unchanged for decades, new evidence discovered by a University of Alberta researcher will rewrite that glacial history and offer clues about our climate history during the last several thousand years.
Glacier fluctuations are sensitive indicators of past climate change, yet little is known about glacier activity in Pacific North America during the first millennium A.D. Alberto Reyes, a PhD student in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and his research team have found evidence for a regionally-extensive glacier expansion in the first millennium AD, suggesting that climate during the last several thousand years may have been even more variable than previously thought. The research appears in the journal Geology.
Reyes and his collaborators--the main ones were Dr. Dan Smith from the University of Victoria and Dr. Greg Wiles from the College of Wooster in Ohio--looked for a variety of clues in the field to help figure out the timing of past glacier fluctuations. At almost all of the glaciers studied, surface evidence prior to the "Little Ice Age" had been destroyed because glacial advance during that time had been so dramatic. Most of the evidence they found was in the form of buried soils and logs covered by glacial sediments. "In some cases, entire forest stands were buried by sediments and their trunks sheared off by advancing ice," said Reyes, who initiated the work while a masters student at Simon Fraser University.
Phoebe Dey | EurekAlert!
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