Abstract

Ground-penetrating radar was used to elucidate the stratigraphy of late Pleistocene gravel dunes in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia that formed when a lake emptied as a result of ice-dam failure. Survey-lines across dunes had a resolution of decimetres, with depth penetration of 20 m. The reflections identify bounding surfaces and radar facies. Two classes of unconformities are identified: (1) an erosional unconformity at the base of the dunes; (2) steeply inclined unconformities that truncate underlying inclined reflections and are downlapped by overlying inclined reflections within the dunes. Unconformities define six radar facies (RF): RF 1, basal subhorizontal discordant reflections; RF 2, poorly defined discordant reflections; RF 3, planar inclined reflections; RF 4, sigmoidal inclined reflections; RF 5, trough fills; RF 6, low-angle inclined reflections. The basal unconformity represents the flood-cut surface, across which the dunes migrated. The inclined unconformities may be interpreted in two ways: (1) erosional surfaces induced by unsteady flow within one flood, or (2) erosional surfaces developed by a series of floods reactivating dunes left stranded by previous floods. The evidence favours the latter model, which is consistent with the occurrence of several dune-forming events within the basin. The broader implications of the study are considered with respect to investigations of megaflood bedforms worldwide.

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