On the age of the penultimate full glaciation of New England

GSA Special Papers
By:  and 



Tills that discontinuously underlie the late Wisconsinan till throughout New England represent the penultimate full glaciation of the region. In southern New England, the late Wisconsinan till and the tills that locally underlie it are informally referred to as upper and lower tills, respectively. For the most part, the ages of the lower tills are not firmly established, and regional correlations between occurrences of lower till, including those on Long Island, New York, are tenuous. Where a lower till underlies deposits having limiting middle Wisconsinan radiocarbon ages (e.g., the Montauk till member of the Manhassett Formation on Long Island at Port Washington, New York, and the lower till at New Sharon, Maine), many workers have assigned the till an early Wisconsinan age. However, lower tills throughout much of New England may be Illinoian or older in age and may correlate with a lower till exposed at Sankaty Head, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, that is pre-Sangamonian in age. The till at Sankaty Head lies below marine beds containing marine faunas indicative of sea-water temperatures both warmer and slightly cooler than those off Nantucket today and that have uranium-thorium and amino-acid racemization (AAR) age estimates suggesting a Sangamonian age (marine oxygen-isotope stage 5).

The lower till at Sankaty Head and the Montauk till member on Long Island were deposited during a full glaciation of New England that was at least as extensive as the late Wisconsinan advance of the Laurentide ice. Global ice-volume data from the marine oxygen-isotope record and the late Pleistocene eustatic sea-level record inferred from raised coral terraces support an advance of this magnitude during marine oxygenisotope stage 6, but not during stage 4.

An early Wisconsinan age of the southern New England lower tills and, hence, of the penultimate glaciation there is problematic in terms of the pre-Sangamonian age of the lower till on Nantucket, and in terms of the late Pleistocene global ice-volume and sea-level records. An Illinoian age for the tills and for the penultimate full glaciation of New England is compatible with all the available evidence except some equivocal radiocarbon ages and AAR age estimates.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title On the age of the penultimate full glaciation of New England
Series title GSA Special Papers
DOI 10.1130/SPE270-p163
Volume 270
Year Published 1992
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 8 p.
Larger Work Title The Last Interglacial-Glacial Transition in North America
First page 163
Last page 170
Country United States
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