Deposits from mountain glaciers provide an important record of Quaternary climatic fluctuations but have proved difficult to date directly. A chronology has been obtained for glacial deposits at Bloody Canyon, California, by measurement of the accumulation of chlorine-36 produced by cosmic rays in boulders exposed on moraine crests. The accumulation of chlorine-36 indicates that episodes of glaciation occurred at about 21, 24, 65, 115, 145, and 200 ka (thousand years ago). Although the timing of the glaciations correlates well with peaks of global ice volume inferred from the marine oxygen isotope record, the relative magnitudes differ markedly. The lengths of the moraines dating from 115 ka and 65 ka show that the early glacial episodes were more extensive than those during the later Wisconsin and indicate that the transition from interglacial to full glacial conditions was rapid.
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