Eolian additions to late Quaternary alpine soils, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado Front Range

Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
By:  and 



Surface horizons of many alpine soils on Quaternary deposits in high-mountain settings are enriched in silt. The origin of these particles has been debated, particularly in the Rocky Mountain region of North America. The most common explanations are frost shattering of coarser particles and eolian additions from distant sources. We studied soil A horizons on alpine moraines of late-glacial (Satanta Peak) age in the Colorado Front Range. Surface horizons of soils on these moraines are enriched in silt and have a particle size distribution that resembles loess and dust deposits found elsewhere. The compositions of sand and silt fractions of the soils were compared to possible local source rocks, using immobile trace elements Ti, Nb, Zr, Ce, and Y. The sand fractions of soils have a wide range of trace element ratios, similar to the range of values in the local biotite gneiss bedrock. In contrast, silt fractions have narrower ranges of trace element ratios that do not overlap the range of these ratios in biotite gneiss. The particle size and geochemical results support an interpretation that silts in these soils are derived from airborne dust. Eolian silts were most likely derived from distant sources, such as the semiarid North Park and Middle Park basins to the west. We hypothesize that much of the eolian influx to soils of the Front Range occurred during an early to mid-Holocene warm period, when sediment availability in semiarid source basins was at a maximum.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Eolian additions to late Quaternary alpine soils, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado Front Range
Series title Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
DOI 10.1657/1523-0430(2006)038[0120:EATLQA]2.0.CO;2
Volume 38
Issue 1
Year Published 2006
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
First page 120
Last page 130
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