Well-dated records of alpine glacier fluctuations provide important insights into the temporal and spatial structure of climate variability. Cirque moraine records from the western United States have historically been interpreted as a resurgence of alpine glaciation in the middle-to-late Holocene (i.e., Neoglaciation), but these moraines remain poorly dated because of limited numerical age constraints at most locations. Here we present 130 10Be ages on 19 moraines deposited by 14 cirque glaciers across this region that have been interpreted as recording these Neoglacial advances. Our 10Be chronology indicates instead that these moraines were deposited during the latest Pleistocene to earliest Holocene, with several as old as 14–15ka. Our results thus show that glaciers retreated from their Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) extent into cirques relatively early during the last deglaciation, experienced small fluctuations during the Bølling–Allerød–Younger Dryas interval, and remained within the maximum limit of the Little Ice Age (LIA) advance of the last several centuries throughout most of the Holocene. Climate modeling suggests that increasing local summer insolation and greenhouse gases were the primary controls on early glacier retreat from their LGM positions. We then infer that subsequent intrinsic climate variability and Younger Dryas cooling caused minor fluctuations during the latest Pleistocene, while the LIA advance represents the culmination of a cooling trend through the Holocene in response to decreasing boreal summer insolation.
Marcott, S. A., Clark, P. U., Shakun, J. D., Brook, E. J., Davis, P. T., & Caffee, M. W. (2019). Be-10 age constraints on latest Pleistocene and Holocene cirque glaciation across the western United States. npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, 2, 1-7. . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-019-0062-z