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Geochemical evidence for seasonal controls on the transportation of Holocene loess, Matanuska Valley, southern Alaska, USA

April 13, 2016

Loess is a widespread Quaternary deposit in Alaska and loess accretion occurs today in some regions, such as the Matanuska Valley. The source of loess in the Matanuska Valley has been debated for more than seven decades, with the Knik River and the Matanuska River, both to the east, being the leading candidates and the Susitna River, to the west, as a less favorable source. We report here new stratigraphic, mineralogic, and geochemical data that test the competing hypotheses of these river sources. Loess thickness data are consistent with previous studies that show that a source or sources lay to the east, which rules out the Susitna River as a source. Knik and Matanuska River silts can be distinguished using Sc–Th–La, LaN/YbN vs. Eu/Eu, Cr/Sc, and As/Sb. Matanuska Valley loess falls clearly within the range of values for these ratios found in Matanuska River silt. Dust storms from the Matanuska River are most common in autumn, when river discharge is at a minimum and silt-rich point bars are exposed, wind speed from the north is beginning to increase after a low-velocity period in summer, snow depth is still minimal, and soil temperatures are still above freezing. Thus, seasonal changes in climate and hydrology emerge as critical factors in the timing of aeolian silt transport in southern Alaska. These findings could be applicable to understanding seasonal controls on Pleistocene loess accretion in Europe, New Zealand, South America, and elsewhere in North America.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Geochemical evidence for seasonal controls on the transportation of Holocene loess, Matanuska Valley, southern Alaska, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.aeolia.2016.02.005
Authors Daniel R. Muhs, James R. Budahn, Gary L. Skipp, John McGeehin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Aeolian Research
Series Number
Index ID 70170227
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center