For Immediate Release—Friday, Oct. 27, 2006



Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo Professor's Study Opens New Window on our Geological Past

GENESEO, N.Y. – Richard A. Young, a distinguished service professor of geological sciences at the State University of New York at Geneseo, has recently completed research in the Genesee Valley that will have profound implications for climate research worldwide. His work, presented in the April 2006 issue of the international journal Geomorphology, is entitled, "Middle Wisconsin glaciation in the Genesee Valley, NY: A stratigraphic record contemporaneous with Henrich Event, H4."

Young's research encompasses a 10-year study of a unique glacial site in northern Livingston County. The site has yielded 68 samples for radiocarbon analysis preserved by two closely spaced glacial advances, including spruce trees, mollusks, mammoth bones and remarkably preserved plant remains. 

Radiocarbon dating of the samples found at the site shows that two ice advances occurred during a short interval centered about 35,000 years ago. This evidence extends the known glacial history of western New York and eastern North America back by 30,000 years to Middle Wisconsin time.

"Nearly all of the existing evidence for the glacial history of New York and eastern North America has come from studies of deposits formed during the last ice advance, beginning about 21,000 years ago," says Young. "That ice sheet melted northward into Lake Ontario about 12,500 years ago, an interval known geologically as Late Wisconsin time.  My research shows that there was an ice advance south of Lake Ontario in Middle Wisconsin time, something which there was previously no evidence for."

"Not only does the research provide evidence for an ice advance in Middle Wisconsin time, but it also is evidence for strange ice sheet behavior in other parts of the world besides Greenland and the North Atlantic during the time period. Strange ice sheet behavior in our part of the world was previously only proven for Late Wisconsin time," says Young.

Young says his research could have a huge impact on the way scientists study climate change.  "We now have a much better evidence for the direct linkage between ice advances in the North Atlantic and the eastern continental United States. This implies that global climate events are more strongly linked than previously realized," says Young.

 "There has been a lot of interest in studying the evidence for abrupt global climate change lately," says Young. "Studies such as these provide well-documented points in time that are valuable for researchers attempting to explain the sudden climate changes that many believe we are seeing on our planet today."

Young says that these findings also provide strong incentives for geologists elsewhere in New York to locate evidence of this important Middle Wisconsin event in other large valleys in the Finger Lakes Region.

Young, originally from East Greenwich, R.I., has been a professor at Geneseo since 1966. He received his bachelor's degree in geology from Cornell University in 1962 and his doctorate degree in geology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1966. On top of his work on the glacial history of the New York area, Young also is known for his research on the history and formation of the Grand Canyon.

The co-author of the Genesee Valley article is George S. Burr, a faculty member at the University of Arizona radiocarbon dating facility. Burr provided most of the radiocarbon ages of the samples found at the Livingston County site under a cooperative research program of discretionary research support. Other portions of the study were supported by funds obtained by Young from SUNY Geneseo.


Written by Joe Mignano, public relations intern in the Office of Communications and Publications.