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Some Geological Implications of Average Quaternary Glacial Conditions

  • Stephen C. Porter (a1)

Analyses of Quaternary landscape evolution tend to focus on events associated with culminations of glacial and interglacial ages, but for most of Quaternary time, environments were intermediate in character. Average Quaternary glacial conditions, based on assessment of the marine isotope record, approximated those near the stage 2/stage 1 transition and during substages 5b and 5d; isotope stages 3 and 4 and substages 5a-d lie within one standard deviation of the mean value. Under average glacial conditions, ice sheets lying over northern North America and Europe were much more contracted than their full-glacial counterparts, and the distribution of mountain glaciers reflected a snowline depression of some 500 m. Geomorphic processes operating under average Quaternary conditions contributed importantly to landscape evolution. Examples of landscapes that may represent such average conditions include cirques and fluvial deposits of the Pacific Northwest, the fjords and strandflat of western Norway, and atolls of the tropical oceans. By examining the geologic record from the perspective of average conditions, rather than those of climatic extremes, added insight can be gained regarding the evolution of Quaternary landscapes.

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Quaternary Research
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