Abstract

Spatially discontinuous meltwater channel networks on the Canadian Prairies are usually interpreted as having formed subaerially in front of the retreating Laurentide ice sheet. Evidence in the Coronation–Spondin scabland, east-central Alberta, supports an alternative formation by progressive channelization of a subglacial sheetflow of water. The scabland is an integrated channel network with varying degrees of anabranching, the channels having highly variable sizes, shapes, and orientations. Enhanced scour at some channel confluences reflects contemporaneous channel utilization. Channels also display convex-up, concave-up, and undulatory along-channel profiles, with some junctions at the same elevations. Longitudinal grooves in large-scale channels are associated with numerous boulder deposits. Residual hills, demarcated by channels, display composite and streamlined forms. Superimposed on residuals are erosional transverse bedforms, longitudinal grooves, and undulating surfaces that indicate submergence for all but the last phase of channelization. Glaciofluvial deposits are found as pendant bars on the distal end of some large, flat-topped residuals, or as mantles superimposed on some residuals. The scabland is interpreted to have formed as a waning, subglacial sheetflood diverted around hummocky terrain to the southwest. A rapidly subsiding ice roof, and instability in the flow, eventually concentrated meltwater into discrete channels. Abrupt cessation of flow left discontinuous gravel–boulder deposits, and ice sheet loading formed small-scale glaciotectonic features as the ice recoupled to its bed. Subsequent deglaciation barely modified the scabland, leaving it straddling part of the modern topographic divide between the Battle and Red Deer river basins.

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