Spreadsheet modeling of former glaciation in research mode

Bill Locke
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GLACPRO is the fourth in a sequence of spreadsheet modeling exercises (SCARP, SCARP2, LONGPRO). It is a simple model that can be applied to answer a research question that may not yet have been addressed in print; it is thus a transition to senior- or graduate-level work.

Specifically, in the GLACPRO exercise student teams (1-3 members) use a numerical model to reconstruct a former glacial flowline from moraines to source. They must interact with teams studying adjacent flowlines to accurately place ice divides. They can calculate average thicknesses, volumes, ice loading, and sea level equivalent from the class model.

In the past, I have used this method to reconstruct the former ice cover of Yellowstone, the Bitterroot Mountains, the San Juans, Sierra Nevada, and numerous other glaciated regions.

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Learning Goals

  • To build mastery of basic Excel??? operations,
  • Reinforce good technical graphical techniques, and
  • Apply basic modeling of natural systems to a research question.

Context for Use

  • I use this exercise in a 3XX Geomorphology class with an enrollment of about 40 in two 20-student labs, three hours in duration. The students in the class typically represent five colleges and as many as eight majors, thus only an introductory Earth Science course is required as a prerequisite.
  • The lab has ten computers (each running Microsoft Office) in groups of two, so work is typically performed in groups of two (for this lab) or four (for more complex activities).
  • This lab takes place in the 12th week of the semester after reading and class discussion of glaciation and often a field trip to an area of mountain glaciation.
  • This is intended to be the fourth of four or five spreadsheet modeling exercises of increasing complexity. This exercise requires 2-4 hours with little instructor/assistant oversight.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips


Assessment suggestions are included with instructors notes.

References and Resources

  • Locke, W. W., 1995, Modeling of icecap glaciation of the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, "Geomorphology", v. 14, p. 123-130.
  • Schilling, D. H., and Hollin, J. T., 1981, Numerical reconstruction of valley glaciers and small ice caps. In T. Hughes and G. H. Denton (eds.), "The Last Great Ice Sheets", p 207-221, John Wiley and Sons, New York.