Abstract

The valley of Bishop Creek, which drains part of the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, California, contains an unusually well-preserved set of middle to late Quaternary moraines. These deposits have been mapped by previous investigators, but they have not been quantitatively dated. We used the accumulation of cosmogenic 36Cl to assign a chronology to the maximal glacial positions mapped in the valley. Our results indicate that the terminal moraines mapped by previous investigators as Tahoe were all deposited between ca. 165 and ca. 135 ka, during marine isotope stage (MIS) 6. Moraines mapped as Tioga were deposited between 28 and 14 ka, during MIS 2. These can be subdivided into Tioga 1 (28–24 ka), Tioga 3 (18.5–17.0 ka), and Tioga 4 (16.0–14.5 ka) advances (no moraines dated to Tioga 2 [21–19 ka] were found, presumably because the Tioga 3 advance either overrode or fluvially eroded them). At 15.0–14.5 ka, the Tioga 4 glacier retreated abruptly to the crest of the range. This was followed by the brief and fairly minor Recess Peak advance at ca. 13.4 ka. No Holocene advances extended beyond the very restricted limits of ice during the Matthes (Little Ice Age) advance. All preserved terminal moraines at lower elevations were deposited during either the Tahoe or Tioga stades. The Tahoe terminal moraines are extensive and voluminous, whereas the Tioga moraines are relatively narrow and have small volumes. However, this notable difference may be more a result of idiosyncrasies in the local glacial history than the result of differences in the length or intensity of glaciation between the two glacial episodes. The history of glacial advances at Bishop Creek exhibits a strong correspondence to global climate cycles, and to paleoclimate events in the North Atlantic in particular.

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