Effects of late Pleistocene permafrost on the landscape of Wisconsin, USA

  • Clayton L
  • Attig J
  • Mickelson D
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Abstract

Pleistocene permafrost had a major but generally unappreciated effect on the landscape of Wisconsin, second only to glaciation. Evidence for continuous permafrost during the last part of the Wisconsin Glaciation includes ice-wedge casts seen both in outcrop (generally in gravel pits) and as polygonal networks (on aerial photographs). Other important evidence includes fossil tundra organisms. Other features that are probably the result of permafrost in Wisconsin include talus cones, block streams, solifluction rubble at the base of most hillslopes, fluvial cobble gravel, gullies that are today inactive, lake-ice collapse trenches, and ice-walled-lake plains. Permafrost caused accelerated regional erosion of the landscape; most topographic features formed before the last permafrost melted have been highly modified or even destroyed, whereas those formed after are much better preserved. In addition, the presence of permafrost influenced many glacial processes and land-forms. Permafrost was present until about 14000 yr BP in the southern part of the state to about 10000 yr BP in the northern part.

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Authors

  • L. Clayton

  • J. W. Attig

  • D. M. Mickelson

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