Assessing the style of advance and retreat of the Des Moines Lobe using LiDAR topographic data

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Day, Sarah
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Neal R. Iverson
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Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

The Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences offers majors in three areas: Geology (traditional, environmental, or hydrogeology, for work as a surveyor or in mineral exploration), Meteorology (studies in global atmosphere, weather technology, and modeling for work as a meteorologist), and Earth Sciences (interdisciplinary mixture of geology, meteorology, and other natural sciences, with option of teacher-licensure).

The Department of Geology and Mining was founded in 1898. In 1902 its name changed to the Department of Geology. In 1965 its name changed to the Department of Earth Science. In 1977 its name changed to the Department of Earth Sciences. In 1989 its name changed to the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences.

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  • Department of Geology and Mining (1898-1902)
  • Department of Geology (1902-1965)
  • Department of Earth Science (1965-1977)
  • Department of Earth Sciences (1977-1989)

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Successive advances of the late-Wisconsinan Des Moines Lobe to form three major end moraines in Iowa--sequentially the Bemis, Altamont, and Algona moraines--are thought to be the result of the lobe surging out of balance with a warming climate. Various styles of hummocky topography, collectively sometimes called stagnation moraine, are interpreted to be the result of widespread stagnation and down-wasting of ice following surges. Alternatively, end moraines could be recessional--a result of incremental back-wasting of the glacier margin and unrelated to surging.

To study the retreat style of the Des Moines Lobe, high resolution LiDAR data were used to re-evaluate the subtle landscape of the lobe's footprint in Iowa. Results indicate that ~90% of the lobe's area, excluding major Holocene stream drainages, consists of stagnation features. Some landforms are more prevalent than mapped previously, including eskers and features interpreted to be subdued ice-walled lake plains. Importantly, subglacially formed minor moraines (a.k.a. washboard moraines), which resulted from sediment filling of transverse crevasses, cover ~60% of the lobe's area with stagnation landforms. Also, ~25 previously unmapped end moraine ridges have been identified.

Transverse crevasse-fill ridges in the forefields of modern glaciers form due to longitudinal ice extension associated with surging and are not found in the forefields of non-surge-type glaciers, so minor moraines are good evidence of Des Moines Lobe surges. Most end moraines have minor moraine sets associated with them, consistent with a surge-like advances, and many areas have multiple sets of minor moraines indicating a surge history more complicated than one advance for each of the three major end moraines. Therefore, asserting stagnation and down-wasting after three surge-like advances provides an incomplete characterization of the Des Moines Lobe's advance and retreat. The surge-type Bering Glacier in Alaska is a good but imperfect modern analog for the lobe.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2014