Abstract

Many rock glaciers contain massive ice that may be useful in paleoclimate studies. Interpreting geochemical ice-core records from rock glaciers requires a thorough understanding of rock glacier structure and dynamics. High-precision surface-velocity data were obtained for the Galena Creek rock glacier, Absaroka Mountains, Wyoming. Surface velocities range from 0 to 1.00 m/yr and vary across the rock glacier in a manner similar to true glaciers. We used Glen's flow law to calculate the thickness of the deforming ice layer. The modeled ice thickness ranges from 0 to 50 m, and is confirmed by direct observations. This agreement shows that rock glacier movement can be entirely explained by deformation of massive ice within the rock glacier; neither basal sliding nor deformation of basal debris is necessary. Recovered ice cores (to depths of 25 m) contain thin debris layers associated with summer ablation in the accumulation zone. The ages of four samples of organic material removed from several debris layers inthe southern half of the rock glacier range from 200 ± 40 to 2250 ± 35 14C yr B.P., demonstrating that the rock glacier formed well before the Little Ice Age and may contain ice dating to the middle Holocene or earlier.

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