Loamy, two-storied soils on the outwash plains of southwestern Lower Michigan: Pedoturbation of loess with the underlying sand

 


Michael D. Luehmann, Brad G. Peter, Christopher B. Connallon, Randall J. Schaetzl, Samuel J. Smidt, Wei Liu, Kevin Kincare, Toni A. Walkowiak,
Elin Thorlund and Marie S. Holler

 

Soils on many of the outwash plains in southwestern Michigan have loamy upper profiles, despite being underlain by sand-textured outwash. The origin(s) of this upper, loamy material has long been unknown. The purpose of this study is to analyze the spatio-textural characteristics of these loamy-textured sediments, in order to ascertain their origin(s). The textural curves of this material have distinct bimodality, with clear silt and sand peaks. Because the sand peaks align with those in the outwash below, we conclude that the upper material is a mixture of an initially silty material with the sand from below, forming loamy textures. By applying a textural filtering operation to the data, we determined its original characteristics; nearly all of the soils originally had silt loam upper profiles, typical for loess. Field data showed that the loamy material is thickest east of a broad, N-S trending valley (the Niles-Thornapple Spillway) that once carried glacial meltwater. The material becomes thinner, generally better sorted, and finer in texture eastward, away from this channel. We conclude that the loamy mantle on many of the adjacent outwash plains is silt-rich loess, derived from the Niles-Thornapple Spillway and its tributary channels, and transported on mainly westerly winds. The Spillway was active between ca. 17.3 and 16.8 k cal. yrs ago. At this time, a large network of tunnel channels existed beneath the stagnant Saginaw lobe ice. Meltwater from the lobe funneled silt-rich sediment into the Spillway, rendering it a prodigious silt source.