Till

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Till or glacial till is unsorted glacial sediment. Glacial drift is a general term for the coarsely graded and extremely heterogeneous sediments of glacial origin. Glacial till is that part of glacial drift which was deposited directly by the glacier. It may vary from clays to mixtures of clay, sand, gravel and boulders. Clay in till may form in spherical shapes called till balls. If a till ball rolls around in a stream, it may pick up rocks from the streambed and become covered by rocks; thence it is known as an armored till ball.

Till is deposited at the terminal moraine, along the lateral and medial moraines and in the ground moraine of a glacier. As a glacier melts, especially a continental glacier, large amounts of till are washed away and deposited as outwash in sandurs by the rivers flowing from the glacier and as varves in any proglacial lakes which may form. Till may contain alluvial deposits of gems or other valuable ore minerals picked up by the glacier during its advance, for example the diamonds found in the American states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and in Canada. Prospectors use trace minerals in tills as clues to follow the glacier upstream to find kimberlite diamond deposits and other types of ore deposits.

Contents

Tillite

In cases where till has been indurated or lithified by subsequent burial into solid rock, it is known as the sedimentary rock tillite. Matching beds of ancient tillites on opposite sides of the south Atlantic Ocean provided early evidence for continental drift. The same tillites also provided the key evidence for the Precambrian Snowball Earth glaciation event.

Types of till

There are various types of classifying tills:

  • primary deposits – these were laid down directly by glacier action
  • secondary deposits – these have undergone reworking (e.g. fluvial transport, erosion, etc)

Traditionally (e.g. Dreimanis, 1988[1]) a further set of divisions has been made to primary deposits, based upon the method of deposition.

  • Lodgement tills – sediment which has been deposited by plastering of glacial debris from a sliding glacier bed.
  • Deformation tills – Sediment which has been disaggregated and (usually) homogenised by shearing in the sub glacial deformed layer.
  • Melt out tills – Released by melting of stagnant or slowly moving debris-rich glacier ice and deposited without subsequent transport or deformation. Split up into sub glacial melt out till (melting of debris rich ice at the bottom of the glacier) and supraglacial melt-out till (melting of ice on the glacier surface).
  • Sublimation till – similar to melt out till, except the ice is lost through sublimation rather than melt. Often occurs only in extremely cold and arid conditions, mainly in Antarctica.

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