The deglacial history of the Lake Michigan basin, including discharge and routing of meltwater, is complex because of the interaction among (1) glacial retreats and re-advances in the basin (2) the timing of occupation and the isostatic adjustment of lake outlets and (3) the depositional and erosional processes that left evidence of past lake levels. In the southern part of the basin, a restricted area little affected by differential isostasy, new studies of onshore and offshore areas allow refinement of a lake-level history that has evolved over 100 years. Important new data include the recognition of two periods of influx of meltwater from Lake Agassiz into the basin and details of the highstands gleaned from sedimentological evidence. Major disagreements still persist concerning the exact timing and lake-level changes associated with the Algonquin phase, approximately 11,000 BP. A wide variety of independent data suggests that the Lake Michigan Lobe was thin, unstable, and subject to rapid advances and retreats. Consequently, lake-level changes were commonly abrupt and stable shorelines were short-lived. The long-held beliefs that the southern part of the basin was stable and separated from deformed northern areas by a hinge-line discontinuity are becoming difficult to maintain. Numerical modeling of the ice-earth system and empirical modeling of shoreline deformation are both consistent with observed shoreline tilting in the north and with the amount and pattern of modern deformation shown by lake-level gauges. New studies of subaerial lacustrine features suggest the presence of deformed shorelines higher than those originally ascribed to the supposed horizontal Glenwood level. Finally, the Lake Michigan region as a whole appears to behave in a similar manner to other areas, both local (other Great Lakes) and regional (U.S. east coast), that have experienced major isostatic changes. Detailed sedimentological and dating studies of field sites and additional development of geophysical models offer hope for reconciling the field data with our understanding of earth rheology. ?? 1995.
Additional publication details
Deglaciation, lake levels, and meltwater discharge in the Lake Michigan basin