The Geochemical Record in Rock Glaciers

TitleThe Geochemical Record in Rock Glaciers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsSteig EJ, Fitzpatrick JJ, Potter JN, Clark DH
JournalGeografiska Annaler. Series A: Physical Geography
ISBN Number0435-3676

A 9.5 m ice core was extracted from beneath the surficial debris cover of a rock glacier at Galena Creek, northwestern Wyoming. The core contains clean, bubble-rich ice with silty debris layers spaced at roughly 20 cm intervals. The debris layers are similar in appearance to those in typical alpine glaciers, reflecting concentration of debris by melting at the surface during the summer ablation season. Profiles of stable isotope concentrations and electrical conductivity measurements provide independent evidence for melting in association with debris layers. These observations are consistent with a glacial origin for the ice, substantiating the glacigenic model for rock glacier formation. The deuterium excess profile in the ice indicates that the total depth of meltwater infiltration is less than the thickness of one annual layer, suggesting that isotope values and other geochemical signatures are preserved at annual resolution. This finding demonstrates the potential for obtaining useful paleoclimate information from rock glacier ice.