Department or Program



As global temperatures warmed and the last North American continental ice sheet receded there were several climate reversals during which time mean temperatures in New England were significantly reduced. Decreased temperatures in combination with increased precipitation may have supported the formation or reactivation of local mountain glaciers in pre-existing cirques on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Evidence supporting the existence of a local cirque glacier would provide important constraints on climatic conditions during the late-glacial Holocene transition. Preliminary mapping done in the area has identified a potential terminal moraine associated with a local valley glacier in the Great Gulf, the largest cirque-like feature on Mount Washington. The presence of this landform is significant because any pre-Wisconsin evidence of valley glaciers in the Great Gulf would likely have been expunged by the presence of continental ice. In order to determine the origins of the terminal moraine, representative samples of the till composing the moraine were collected by digging five test pits across the feature, sampling ~50 hand-sized stones from each pit, and determining the provenence of individual stones. Results indicate that the landform is composed of unsorted clasts with provenances of both local and regional origin. Clasts sourced within the Great Gulf support the interpretation that they were deposited by processes dependent on the presence of a local mountain glacier during a post-Wisconsin climate reversal. Stones of more distant origins may be attributed to residual till, associated with a continental ice mass that occupied the cirque at the time of local glacier reactivation. This data shows that the landform was deposited from processes taking place within the Great Gulf, and the pronounced topography and volume of the landform would support its interpretation as a terminal moraine. By reconstructing the glacier using the feature as terminus, a paleo-ELA was calculated and climate conditions necessary to promote the growth of an icemass were ascertained. Comparing this climate to the contemporary allows us to evaluate the magnitude of late-Pleistocene climate reversals in the White Mountains.

Level of Access

Open Access

Date of Graduation

Winter 12-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.