Multiphase flow of the late Wisconsinan Cordilleran ice sheet in Western Canada

A. J. Stumpf, B. E. Broster, V. M. Levson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In central British Columbia, ice flow during the late Wisconsinan Fraser glaciation (ca. 25-10 ka) occurred in three phases. The ice expansion phase occurred during an extended period when glaciers flowed westward to the Pacific Ocean and east-southeastward onto the Nechako Plateau from ice centers in the Skeena, Hazelton, Coast, and Omineca Mountains. Initially, glacier flow was confined by topography along major valleys, but eventually piedmont and montane glaciers coalesced to form an integrated glacier system, the Cordilleran ice sheet. In the maximum phase, a Cordilleran ice divide developed over the Nechako Plateau to 300 km inland from the Pacific coast. At this time, the surface of the ice sheet extended well above 2500 m above sea level, and flowed westward over the Skeena, Hazelton, and Coast Mountains onto the continental shelf, and eastward across the Rocky Mountains into Alberta. In the late glacial phase, a rapid rise of the equilibrium line caused ice lobes to stagnate in valleys, and restricted accumulation centers to high mountains. Discordant directions in ice flow are attributed to fluctuations of the ice divide representing changes in the location of accumulation centers and ice thickness. Ice centers probably shifted in response to climate, irregular growth in the ice sheet, rapid calving, ice streaming, and drainage of proglacial and subglacial water bodies. Crosscutting ice-flow indicators and preservation of early (valley parallel) flow features in areas exposed to later (cross-valley) glacier erosion indicate that the ice expansion phase was the most erosive and protracted event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1850-1863
Number of pages14
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2000


  • Cordilleran
  • Divides
  • Ice flows
  • Ice sheet
  • Quaternary
  • Western Canada

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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