Abstract

The ages of the last two glaciations near West Yellowstone, Montana, can be calculated by obsidian hydration techniques that are calibrated by K-Ar dating of obsidian-bearing lava flows. The average age of glacial abrasion of obsidian in the Pinedale terminal moraines is about 30,000 yr, with most age measurements between 20,000 and 35,000 yr. For the Bull Lake moraines, it is about 140,000 yr, with most measurements between 130,000 and 155,000 yr. This age for the Bull Lake moraines is also supported by geologic relations that show that the moraines are older than a rhyolite flow dated by K-Ar as 114,500 ± 7,300 yr old (lσ).

These obsidian hydration ages of the Pinedale and Bull Lake Glaciations correlate well with the last two cold intervals of the marine record. The age determined for the Bull Lake Glaciation near West Yellowstone antedates the last interglaciation of the marine record, which is commonly correlated with the Sangamon Interglaciation.

Our results suggest correlation of the Pinedale Glaciation near West Yellowstone with much or all of the Wisconsin Glaciation and of the Bull Lake with the late Illinoian. This differs with the commonly accepted correlation of the Pinedale with the late (“classical”) Wisconsin and of the Bull Lake with the early Wisconsin. The correlation of Bull Lake with late Illinoian appears equally or more compatible with traditional criteria for correlation, namely comparative soil development and degree of preservation of morainal morphology.

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