Quaternary glacial, lacustrine, and fluvial interactions in the western Noatak basin, Northwest Alaska

Quaternary Science Reviews

DOI: 10.1016/S0277-3791(00)00110-4



The 130 km long Noatak basin is surrounded by mountains of the western Brooks Range. Middle and late Pleistocene glaciers flowing southeast into the basin dammed a succession of proglacial lakes defined by shorelines, outlet channels and upper limits of wave erosion. More than 60 bluffs along the Noatak River and its principal tributaries expose glacial and glaciolacustrine sediments that exhibit cut-and-fill relationships with interglacial and interstadial river-channel and floodplain deposits. This report focuses on the western Noatak basin, where high bluffs created by deep postglacial erosion record four major glacial advances. During the Cutler advance, a floating ice tongue terminated in a large proglacial lake that filled the Noatak basin. The retreating glacier abandoned a trough along the valley center that subsequently filled with about 40m of sediment during several younger glaciations and probably two major interglacial episodes. Alluvium that formed near the beginning of the younger interglaciation contains the 140,000 yr old Old Crow tephra. The subsequent closely spaced Okak and Makpik advances are clearly younger than the maximum of the last interglaciation, but they preceded a middle Wisconsin (36-30 ka) nonglacial interval in the Noatak basin. The Okak advance terminated in an extensive lake, whereas glaciers of the Makpik and the subsequent Anisak advances flowed into much narrower lakes that filled only the basin center. The Anisak advance, bracketed by radiocarbon ages of about 35 and 13.6 ka, represents the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the western Noatak basin. Correlations with the oldest and youngest glacial deposits of the central Brooks Range are clear, but relationships to events of intermediate age are more tenuous. Early Pleistocene and older glacial advances from the central Brooks Range must have filled the Noatak basin and overflowed northward through Howard Pass. A younger glacial advance, of inferred middle Pleistoscene (Sagavanirktok River) age, extended down the Noatak valley into the basin center, but its deposits are deeply buried beneath the basin floor and must be older than the Cutler moraine. The Cutler advance may have been synchronous with the older of two advances of Itkillik I age in the Atongarak Creek area, but other evidence indicates that the Okak-Makpik moraine succession more likely was synchronous with the two Atongarak Creek moraines. Radiocarbon ages, surface morphology, soil and weathering profiles, and lake-level history all support correlation of the last (Anisak) major glacial advance in the western basin with the Douglas Creek moraine farther east and with Itkillik II (late Wisconsin) glaciation of the central Brooks Range. ?? 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

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Quaternary glacial, lacustrine, and fluvial interactions in the western Noatak basin, Northwest Alaska
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Quaternary Science Reviews
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