Evidence for climatic change is found in petrographic thin sections from soils formed on glaciofluvial deposits of Rock Creek and the lower Clarks Fork, Montana. These soils, presently in a semiarid climate, range from late Pliocene to Holocene in age, and have undergone periodic fluctuations in soil moisture caused by climatic changes. In the lower parts of soil B horizons, accretion of illuvial layers of clay (argillans) occurs mainly during wet (glacial) climatic periods, whereas carbonate precipitates mainly during dry (interglacial) climatic periods. Thin-section studies of the argillan and carbonate layers show that: (1) post-Pinedale soils that have formed only in the present interglacial climate contain areas of secondary carbonate unrelated to argillans, (2) soils formed on outwash of successively older glaciations contain proportionately more alternating layers of argillans and carbonate, and (3) the maximum number and sequence of layers in a soil correspond to the number of local cycles of glacial-outwash deposition and subsequent stream incision that followed the beginning of soil formation. These cycles are inferred to correspond to local glacial-interglacial fluctuations. The correspondence between the microscopic record and the glacial-outwash record for Rock Creek suggests that some of the climatic changes seen in the marine oxygen-isotope record did not strongly affect the study area. ?? 1987.
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Climatic implications of alternating clay and carbonate formation in semiarid soils of South-Central Montana