Regional reconstruction of subglacial hydrology and glaciodynamic behaviour along the southern margin of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet in British Columbia, Canada and northern Washington State, USA
Subglacial landsystems in and around Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada are investigated in order to evaluate landscape development, subglacial hydrology and Cordilleran Ice Sheet dynamics along its southern margin. Major landscape elements include drumlin swarms and tunnel valleys. Drumlins are composed of bedrock, diamicton and glaciofluvial sediments; their form truncates the substrate. Tunnel valleys of various scales (km to 100s km length), incised into bedrock and sediment, exhibit convex longitudinal profiles, and truncate drumlin swarms. Okanagan Valley is the largest tunnel valley in the area and is eroded >300 m below sea level. Over 600 m of Late Wisconsin-age sediments, consisting of a fining-up sequence of cobble gravel, sand and silt fill Okanagan Valley. Landform-substrate relationships, landform associations, and sedimentary sequences are incompatible with prevailing explanations of landsystem development centred mainly on deforming beds. They are best explained by meltwater erosion and deposition during ice sheet underbursts.During the Late-Wisconsin glaciation, Okanagan Valley functioned as part of a subglacial lake spanning multiple connected valleys (few 100s km) of southern British Columbia. Subglacial lake development started either as glaciers advanced over a pre-existing sub-aerial lake (catch lake) or by incremental production and storage of basal meltwater. High geothermal heat flux, geothermal springs and/or subglacial volcanic eruptions contributed to ice melt, and may have triggered, along with priming from supraglacial lakes, subglacial lake drainage. During the underburst(s), sheetflows eroded drumlins in corridors and channelized flows eroded tunnel valleys. Progressive flow channelization focused flows toward major bedrock valleys. In Okanagan Valley, most of the pre-glacial and early-glacial sediment fill was removed. A fining-up sequence of boulder gravel and sand was deposited during waning stages of the underburst(s) and bedrock drumlins in Okanagan Valley were enhanced or wholly formed by this underburst(s). Subglacial lake development and drainage had an impact on ice sheet geometry and ice volumes. The prevailing conceptual model for growth and decay of the CIS suggests significantly thicker ice in valleys compared to plateaus. Subglacial lake development created a reversal of this ice sheet geometry where grounded ice on plateaus thickened while floating valley ice remained thinner (due to melting and enhanced sliding, with significant transfer of ice toward the ice sheet margin). Subglacial lake drainage may have hastened deglaciation by melting ice, lowering ice-surface elevations, and causing lid fracture. This paper highlights the importance of ice sheet hydrology: its control on ice flow dynamics, distribution and volume in continental ice masses.