Essay about Effects of The Pleistocene Epoch on Colorado

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Effects of The Pleistocene Epoch on Colorado

INTRODUCTION

Glaciers are an integral part of the world’s climate. In fact, as Richard Armstrong of the University of Colorado says, “Glaciers are key indicators in monitoring and detecting climate change” (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, 2003, p. 1). Not only are they an important part of monitoring current climate, they can hold many keys to the past. Glaciers are in fact, “a source of paleoclimate data…” (Meier and Dyurgerov, 1980, p. 37). This paleoclimate data can give geologists information on the conditions that were present at the time of the glaciers birth, as well as the approximate age. This has an important role in the geologic time scale of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
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(Plummer, 2003, p. 288). Valley, like the name implies, are those glaciers that are confined to valleys. “Most glaciers in the United States and Canada, being in mountains, are of the valley type” (Plummer, 2003, p. 289). Ice sheets are those that cover “a large area of land (over 50,000 square kilometers)” (Plummer, 2003, p. 290). In short, as Valley Glaciers can be associated with Alpine Glaciers, Ice Sheets can be “associated with continental glaciation” (Plummer, 2003, p. 290).

The formation of a glacier is simple in that snow is “carried over to the next winter.” (Cox and Fulsaas, 2003, p. 532) This accumulation continues year after year until the snow is “beginning a slow downhill movement” (Cox and Fulsaas, 2003, p. 532). In more complicated terms, once the snow has begun to accumulate, the old snow gets metamorphisized from snow crystals into grains of ice. The air between the ice grains eventually gets compacted and “the mass becomes airtight.” (Cox and Fulsaas, 2003, p. 532) (Fig 1) It is at this point that snow mass becomes a glacier. As the glacier makes its travel downward, the glacial ice crystals grow in size. In fact, “Large glaciers, in which the ice takes centuries to reach the glacier’s foot, may produce crystals more than 1 foot (30 centimeters) in diameter” (Cox and Fulsaas, 2003, pp. 532-3.)

Glaciers “can produce spectacular glacial features by vigorous erosion” (Embleton and

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