Till-forming processes beneath parts of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, British Columbia, Canada: macroscale and microscale evidence and a new statistical technique for analysing microstructure data



This paper presents the first integrated macroscale and microscale examination of subglacial till associated with the last-glacial (Fraser Glaciation) Cordilleran Ice Sheet (CIS). A new statistical approach to quantifying till micromorphology (multivariate hierarchical cluster analysis for compositional data) is also described and implemented. Till macrostructures, macrofabrics and microstructures support previous assertions that primary till in this region formed through a combination of lodgement and deformation processes in a temperate subglacial environment. Macroscale observations suggest that subglacial environments below the CIS were probably influenced by topography, whereby poor drainage of the substrate in topographically constricted areas, or on slopes adverse to the ice-flow direction at glacial maximum, facilitated ductile deformation of the glacier bed. Microscale observations suggest that subglacial till below the CIS experienced both ductile and brittle deformation, including grain rotation and squeeze flow of sediment between grains under moist conditions, and microshearing, grain stacking and grain fracturing under well-drained conditions. Macroscale observations suggest that ductile deformation events were probably followed by brittle deformation events as the substrate subsequently drained. The prevalence of ductile-type microstructures in most till exposures investigated in this study suggests that ductile deformation signatures can be preserved at the microscale after brittle deformation events that result in larger-scale fractures and shear structures. It is likely that microscale ductile deformation can also occur within distributed shear zones during lodgement processes. Cluster analysis of microstructure data and qualitative observations made from thin sections suggest that the relative frequency of countable microstructures in this till is influenced by topography in relation to ice-flow direction (bed drainage conditions) as well as by the frequency and distribution of voids in the till matrix and skeletal grain shapes.