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ABSTRACT

The rich Quaternary history of the Pacific Northwest showcases the important linkages between multiple geologic processes that have shaped its sedimentology and geomorphology. This field trip in eastern Washington explores the evolution of landforms that developed within the Palouse and the Channeled Scabland—geomorphically distinctive areas that were indirectly and directly influenced by multiple Quaternary glacial outburst megafloods. These floods produced expansive fine-grained sediments that were subsequently remobilized by the wind to generate sand dunes, sand sheets, and the thick loess of the Palouse. Landforms and deposits that date from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) include dramatically eroded scab-land features, coarse-to fine-grained flood slackwater deposits, sand dunes, loess, and paleosols. Sedimentary, paleopedologic, and geomorphic evidence for similar magnitude glacial outburst megafloods and loess accumulation that are related to the penultimate glaciation, during oxygen isotope stage 4, is recorded in several loess outcrops. This field trip traces the windblown sediments from source to sink and particularly focuses on Eureka Flat—the engine of the Palouse loess—and well-studied sections of thick loess farther downwind. A rich paleoclimate record is emerging from the loess stratigraphy and paleosols based on luminescence ages, tephrochronology, and paleoecologic analyses.

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