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Late Quaternary Environments of the United States

Late Quaternary Environments of the United States: Volume 2

H. E. Wright Editor
Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 300
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  • Book Info
    Late Quaternary Environments of the United States
    Book Description:

    In the late 1970s American and Russian scientists met twice in conferences on Quaternary paleoclimates sponsored by the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Bilateral Agreement on the Environment. The conferees agreed to prepare volumes summarizing the current status of research in the two countries. Late-Quaternary Environments of the United States provides a two-volume overview of new and significant information on research of the last fifteen years, since the 1965 publication of Quaternary of the United States, edited by H E. Wright, Jr., and D. G. Frey. The volume on the late Quaternary in the Soviet Union will also be published by the University of Minnesota Press. Volume 1 of Late-Quaternary Environments of the United States covers the Late Pleistocene, the interval between 25,000 and 10,000 years ago -- a time of extreme environmental stress as the world passed from full-glacial conditions of the last ice age into the present interglacial age. The interval of geologic time since the last glacial period -- termed the Holocene -- is the subject of Volume 2. The complexity of the natural changes occurring in the late Quaternary, and their interrelationships, make it impossible for a single scientific discipline to encompass them. Thus the papers in both volumes come from authors in many research fields -- geology, ecology, physical geography, archaeology, geochemistry, geophysics, limnology, soil science, paleontology, and climatology. Many of the hypotheses presented -- especially on the dynamic Late Pleistocene environments -- are still hotly debated and will require additional testing as scientists strive to reconstruct the changing world of the glacial and postglacial ages.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6495-5
    Subjects: Geology

Table of Contents

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  1. Contributors to This Volume
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    H. E. Wright Jr.

    The last retreat of the Pleistocene continental ice sheets and the climatic change that intiated this event ushered in the Holocene epoch of the Quaternary. In most natural systems controlled primarily by climatic change, the Holocene probably has not differed substantially from earlier interglacial intervals, at least so far, and there is little doubt that another major glaciation will ensue. Because the Holocene is so close to us and because so much is known about its environmental history, it deserves its separate designation—and a volume devoted to the interpretation of its geologic record.

    The most recent of the Pleistocene...

  3. Physical Geology

    • CHAPTER 1 Holocene Glaciation in the Mountain Ranges of the Western United States
      (pp. 3-11)
      R. M. Burke and P. W. Birkeland

      Virtually all of the major mountain ranges of the western United States possess Holocene glacial or rock-glacial deposits nested upvalley from the latest Wisconsin moraines. Very few of these deposits have been studied in detail, so it is impossible to construct a comprehensive regional picture of Holocene glacial activity in the western United States. However, the few detailed studies that have been made during the past three decades present a coherent sample of Holocene glacial activity from widely spaced localities in the western United States.

      Several recent reviews are concerned with the timing of Holocene glaciation in North America and...

    • CHAPTER 2 Aspects of Holocene Pedology in the United States
      (pp. 12-25)
      Robert V. Ruhe

      Any reasonable exposé of Holocene pedology in the United States would require a bulky monograph because of a simple fact: there are more than 10,000 soil series, or soil-taxonomic units, recognized in the country; and, if soil-mapping units were considered, the number of series would be multiplied by a factor ofN. Obviously, an in-depth treatment of such a large subject is not feasible in a brief chapter, so certain aspects of the subject that may have broad application in principle have been chosen for discussion.

      First, the relations between soils and Holocene climates are treated from the viewpoint of...

    • CHAPTER 3 Responses of River Systems to Holocene Climates
      (pp. 26-41)
      J. C. Knox

      The characteristics of runoff and sediment yield are the principal determinants of the physical properties of alluvial channels and floodplains. The frequency and magnitude of water and sediment yields are adjusted to climate, vegetative cover, and physiography. A vast literature pertains to relations between alluvial histories and Holocene climates. Not surprisingly, many of the interpretations and conclusions contradict each other. In this chapter, I first identify a few hypotheses that characterize the responses of river systems to Holocene climates. I then examine the relations among climate, vegetation, and fluvial activity in cases where causal connections can be sought. Finally, I...

    • CHAPTER 4 Sea Level and Coastal Changes
      (pp. 42-51)
      Arthur L. Bloom

      The first day of the Holocene Epoch 10,000 years ago was not noticeably different from the days that preceded or followed it. The ice sheets covering Canada and Scandinavia were rapidly disintegrating. Immature soils, still only a few thousand years old, were forming on the loess and drift of recently deglaciated regions. Permafrost was disappearing from the surficial soil layers of a rapidly shrinking periglacial region. Plants and animals were shifting into new habitats as the climate warmed. And sea level was rising.

      From a glacially lowered level of some 120 ± 60 m below present sea level (Bloom, 1983),...

    • CHAPTER 5 Holocene Volcanism in the Conterminous United States and the Role of Silicic Volcanic Ash Layers in Correlation of Latest-Pleistocene and Holocene Deposits
      (pp. 52-77)
      Andrei M. Sarna-Wojcicki, Duane E. Champion and Jonathan O. Davis

      In the first part of this chapter, we summarize information on the areal distribution and positions of Holocene volcanic fields; the composition of the materials erupted; the available age controls; and the relations of tectonic setting, heat flow, and hydrothermal activity to the spatial distribution of volcanism. In the second part, we summarize information on the widespread silicic ash layers of latest-Pleistocene and Holocene age; their inferred areal distributions, volumes, and frequencies; some of the petrographic and chemical characteristics by which they can be identified; and their use in late-Quaternary correlation and age dating.

      We exclude Alaskan volcanism from our...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Holocene Paleomagnetic Record in the United States
      (pp. 78-85)
      Subir K. Banerjee

      Research on the paleomagnetism of rocks and sediments began during the 1950s and has been responsible for dramatic discoveries in the areas of Phanerozoic continental drift and plate tectonics. It is difficult, however, to point to an equal maturity in paleomagnetic research for the Holocene period. The reasons for this are threefold. First, rocks and sediments with stable natural remanent magnetizations (NRM) and suitably detailed temporal records have been hard to find. Second, it was difficult to measure weak NRMs until the cryogenic magnetometers were developed. Third, accurate and high-resolution age dating of such rocks and sediments is difficult. The...

    • CHAPTER 7 Radioactive Isotopes in the Holocene
      (pp. 86-106)
      Pieter M. Grootes

      Since the 1965 publication of Broecker’s paper in “The Quaternary of the United States,” the use of isotopes in geologic research has increased vastly. Large amounts of radioactive isotopes produced in the atmosphere by nuclear weapons tests resulted in the rapid improvement of detection techniques for studying and monitoring fallout. These techniques have been utilized in studies of the isotopic record in sediments as it pertains to paleoclimatic fluctuations, as well as in investigations of such problems as mineralization history.

      Isotopic studies can be divided into three classes: stable isotopes, natural radioactive isotopes, and radioactive isotopes produced by nuclear explosions....

  4. Paleoecology

    • CHAPTER 8 Holocene Vegetational History of the Western United States
      (pp. 109-127)
      Richard G. Baker

      As valley glaciers and ice caps melted and pluvial lakes shrank at the end of the Pleistocene, substantial changes also occurred in the vegetation of the western United States. A new environmental setting prevailed. The macroclimate changed markedly during late-glacial and postglacial times. The microclimate also changed as large pluvial lakes disappeared. Fresh, unweathered soils were exposed as glaciers and pluvial lakes contracted. These new environmental conditions rendered old associations and distributions of plants out of equilibrium with their new environment. How was the vegetation affected by these changes? Did large latitudinal migrations like those in the eastern United States...

    • CHAPTER 9 Holocene Vegetational History of Alaska
      (pp. 128-141)
      Thomas A. Ager

      At the time of the Seventh Congress of the International Association for Quaternary Research in 1965 at Boulder, Colorado, few investigations of Quaternary vegetational history in Alaska had been undertaken. Reviews published at the time of the congress or soon thereafter show that the regions of the state having the best-known vegetational history were south-central and southeastern coastal Alaska (Heusser, 1965) and Arctic Alaska. Arctic history was based on a few widely scattered sites in the central Brooks Range, the Arctic Foothills and Coastal Plain, the Seward Peninsula, and some of the islands of the Bering Sea (Colinvaux, 1967b). The...

    • CHAPTER 10 Holocene Changes in the Vegetation of the Midwest
      (pp. 142-165)
      T. Webb III, E. J. Cushing and H. E. Wright Jr.

      Describing the Holocene vegetational history of the midwestern United States has long challenged palynologists and ecologists. Early work from the 1930s to the 1950s revealed that the vegetation had changed, but only since 1960 has a data base accumulated that contains enough radiocarbon dates to permit study of the timing and spatial patterns of the changes. In the northern Midwest, the network of radiocarbon-dated pollen diagrams is now sufficiently dense that the pollen data can be mapped in a form that reveals the patterns of past vegetation.

      Previous discussions of the Holocene vegetational history within the Midwest (Potzger, 1946; Curtis,...

    • CHAPTER 11 Holocene Vegetational History of the Eastern United States
      (pp. 166-181)
      Margaret Bryan Davis

      The eastern United States (Figure 11-1), now farmland and secondary forest, was largely a region of deciduous forest at the time of the European settlement. Today, spruce and fir (Table 11-1) occur in the boreal forest (region 1, Figure 11-2) and also at high elevations throughout the Appalachian mountain chain, and tundra is found on the highest peaks in the North. Throughout the northernmost United States (region 2, Figure 11-2), the deciduous forests are dominated by sugar maple, beech, and yellow birch. Hemlock and white pine are also common except at high elevations, and oaks occur in warmer areas. The...

    • CHAPTER 12 Holocene Mammalian Biogeography and Climatic Change in the Eastern and Central United States
      (pp. 182-207)
      Holmes A. Semken Jr.

      Paleontologic, as opposed to archeological, localities representing the last 10,000 years seem relatively scarce when the abundance of literature is used as a measure. Kurtén and Anderson (1980: 39) record 15 early-Holocene paleontologic local faunas “that have yielded information on the appearance or extinction of species,” compared to 149 significant Wisconsin local faunas. Although several Holocene sites have been reported since that book was prepared, the ratio of Holocene paleontologic sites to Wisconsin paleontologic sites has not been altered.

      The paucity of paleontologic sites assigned to the Holocene is not a result of their scarcity; it reflects a lack of...

    • CHAPTER 13 Holocene Paleolimnology
      (pp. 208-221)
      Richard B. Brugam

      Although the pollen content of lake sediments mainly reflects climatic influences on upland vegetation, remains of lake organisms in sediments show changes in lake environments that may or may not be directly related to climatic change. Climatic influences on lake organisms generally occur by means of indirect mechanisms such as changes in evaporation and runoff or watershed vegetational type. The usefulness of the paleolimnological record lies not in its being a directly readable record of climatic change but in its being a record of long-term changes in populations of lake organisms and in lake environments. The record includes, along with...

    • CHAPTER 14 Tree-Ring Studies of Holocene Environments
      (pp. 222-236)
      Linda B. Brubaker and Edward R. Cook

      Concern over food, water, and energy resources has prompted a growing interest in recent climatic variations. Information on conditions during preceding centuries is essential for anticipating future conditions because the climate of the 20th century is thought to be somewhat anomalous (Bryson and Hare, 1974; Lamb, 1972, 1974). In North America, variations in the annual growth rings of trees constitute the most important source of information about climatic change during recent centuries (Fritts, 1976). Tree rings provide continuous and precisely dated records of annual and even seasonal climatic conditions. Because trees grow in a variety of climatic environments across North...

  5. Environmental Archaeology

    • CHAPTER 15 Environmental Archaeology in the Western United States
      (pp. 239-251)
      C. Melvin Aikens

      The concept of the natural environment as a variable shaping human society has been a primary focus of archaeological study in the western United States for a long time, and significant progress has been made during the past two decades in delineating the culture-environment relationship. The work of Baumhoff and Heizer (1965) constitutes a baseline from which this chapter can start. The framework of their paper follows the Neothermal concept of Antevs (1948, 1955), which describes post-Pleistocene time in terms of the Anathermal period, about 9000 to 7000 yr B.P., with climatic conditions initially cool and moist but growing warmer,...

    • CHAPTER 16 The Evolution of Human Ecosystems in the Eastern United States
      (pp. 252-268)
      James B. Stoltman and David A. Baerreis

      This chapter outlines out current understanding of the Holocene prehistoric human ecology of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The geographic scope of the chapter includes two major provinces, the Great Plains and the Eastern Woodlands, both widely recognized as natural and cultural areas (Kroeber, 1939; Stoltman, 1978; Wedel, 1961). The temporal limits of discussion will be 8000 B.C. to the time of contact with Europeans around A.D. 1600.

      This chapter could be said to be oriented toward environmental archaeology, but only if that term were being used in its broadest sense. From our viewpoint, environmental archaeology involves...

  6. Climatology

    • CHAPTER 17 Modeling of Holocene Climates
      (pp. 271-278)
      John E. Kutzbach

      The climatic events of the Holocene have been dramatic. To place the events in perspective, it is useful to consider the entire sequence of climates, starting with the glacial maximum conditions (around 18,000 yr B.P.) and proceeding through the deglaciation to the interglacial maximum (early to middle Holocene) and then to the climate of our time. The facts concerning the starting point of this climatic sequence have become increasingly well established, thanks in large part to the intensive efforts of the CLIMAP project (1976) in charting the sea-surface temperature, sea level, sea-ice extent, land albedo, and ice-sheet topography for the...