First Advisor

Andrew G. Fountain

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography






Glaciers -- Washington (State) -- Mount Rainier, Glaciers -- Climatic factors, Paleoclimatology -- Pacific Northwest -- Holocene, Climatic changes



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, xi, 117 pages)


Regional paleoclimatic proxies and current local climate variables and were analyzed to reconstruct paleoglaciers in an effort to assess glacier change On Mount Rainier. Despite the dry and generally warm conditions (sea surface temperatures (SST) -0.15°C to +1.8°C relative to current temperatures), the previously documented McNeeley II advance (10,900 - 9,950 cal yr B.P.) was likely produced by air temperature fluctuations. The average SST record and the terrestrial climate proxies show cooling temperatures with continued dryness between McNeeley II and the Burroughs Mountain advance (3,442 - 2,153 cal yr B.P.). The paleoclimate during the Burroughs Mountain advance was both cool and warm (SST temperatures -0.55°C to +0.5°C) and was the wettest of the Holocene.

A combination of statistical and deterministic equilibrium line altitude (ELA) models was used to produce Holocene ELAs between 1,735 -2,980 m. Glacial advances were predicted 10,990, 10,170, 9,260, 8,200, 6,490, 3,450 and 550 - 160 cal yr. B.P. Two glacier flow models were produced simultaneously to constrain glacial extent through the Holocene. Model I is based on current mass balance parameters and produced lengths for the Nisqually and Emmons glaciers 3.7 - 14.2 km and 4.2 - 17.1 km respectively. Glaciated area ranged from 26 to 327 km2. Model 2 is tuned to the Garda advance and produced lengths 2.6-10.6 km and 2.3-13.9 km. Glaciated area ranged from 11 to 303 km2. The first two advances were similar in elevation and GIS-modeled extent to McNeely II moraines. The following three advances were not detected in the geologic record. The 3,450 cal yr. B.P. advance was the largest of the late-Holocene (ELA 1,800 - 1,817 m) and was ~200 m lower than the geologic record. The ELAs of the Garda advance were modeled (1,944 - 1,983 m) and are similar to previous reconstructions. North-south spatial variations in glacial extent increase during periods of recession as the southern glaciers receive more ablation than northern glaciers.

Early humans could have accessed the alpine environments as high as 1,730-2,980 m. The early Holocene glacial extent allowed the highest (2,980 m) 11,150 cal yr. B.P. and lowest (1,730 m) 10,990 cal yr. B.P. alpine access. Glacial retreat (2,727 m 10,400 cal yr. B.P.) was followed by an advance (1,929 m 10,170 cal yr. B.P.) and another retreat (2,951 m 10,050 cal yr. B.P.). Ice gradually descended and limited access to 1,820 m 6,490 cal yr. B.P. Glacial extents remained largely unchanged until the historic era when paleohumans would have had access to alpine environments at 2,000 m.


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