EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Reconstructing Cordilleran Ice Sheet stability in western Canada during the Last Deglaciation

Christopher Darvill1, Brian Menounos2, Brent Goehring3, and Alia Lesnek4
Christopher Darvill et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, The University of Manchester, Arthur Lewis Building, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK
  • 2Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, BC, V2N 4Z9, Canada
  • 3Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, 210 Blessey Hall, New Orleans, LA, 70118, USA
  • 4School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, CUNY, Science Building, E-224 65-30 Kissena Blvd Flushing, NY 11367, USA

The Cordilleran Ice Sheet in western North America was of comparable size and topographic setting to the modern Greenland Ice Sheet and exhibited similar dynamics. Ice streams channelled rapid flow and the western ice margin terminated in both marine and terrestrial environments. Reconstructing Cordilleran Ice Sheet retreat can therefore provide a helpful analogue for how the Greenland Ice Sheet may respond to changing climate and underlying topography in the future. Moreover, deglaciation in this region controlled routes available for early human migration into the Americas. Here, we present cosmogenic 10Be nuclide exposure ages from glacial erratics and bedrock on the west coast of British Columbia (53.4°N, 129.8°W) that add to existing chronologies along ~600 km of coastal North America. Collectively, these data show deglaciation back to the present coastline by ca. 18–16 ka. Retreat then slowed and ice seemingly stabilised close to the present coastline for several thousand years until ca. 14–13 ka. Ice may still have been lost during this period of relative stability, but through vertical thinning rather than lateral retreat. We attribute initial retreat to destabilisation and grounding line retreat resulting from rising sea level and/or ocean warming in the northern Pacific. Subsequent stability at the present coast was likely due to the transition from marine to terrestrial margins despite increasing temperatures that may have driven ice sheet thinning. Hence, we show the importance of understanding both climatic and non-climatic drivers of ice sheet change through time. We also show that hundreds of kilometres of coastline were free of ice prior to an important period of early human migration into the Americas.

How to cite: Darvill, C., Menounos, B., Goehring, B., and Lesnek, A.: Reconstructing Cordilleran Ice Sheet stability in western Canada during the Last Deglaciation, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-2831,, 2022.


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