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Bretz coined the term Channeled Scablands in 1923 to refer to the area near the Grand Coulee, where massive erosion had cut through basalt deposits.
Bretz published a paper in 1923, arguing that the Channeled Scablands in Eastern Washington were caused by massive flooding in the distant past. Pardee, had worked with Bretz and had evidence of an ancient glacial lake that lent credence to Bretz's theories.
Glacial deposits overlaid with centuries of windblown sediments (loess) have scattered steep, southerly-sloping dunes throughout the Columbia Valley, ideal conditions for orchard and vineyard development at higher latitudes.
This allowed more water to flow through the cracks, generating more heat, allowing even more water to flow through the cracks.
His most compelling argument for separate floods was that the Touchet bed deposits from two successive floods were found to be separated by two layers of volcanic ash (tephra) with the ash separated by a fine layer of windblown dust deposits, located in a thin layer between sediment layers ten rhythmites below the top of the Touchet beds. By analogy, since there were 40 layers with comparable characteristics at Burlingame Canyon, Waitt argued they all could be considered to have similar separation in deposition time.
The two layers of volcanic ash are separated by 1–10 centimetres (0.4–3.9 in) of airborne nonvolcanic silt. The controversy whether the Channeled Scabland landforms were formed mainly by multiple periodic floods, or by a single grand-scale cataclysmic flood from late Pleistocene Glacial Lake Missoula or from an unidentified Canadian source, continued through 1999.
Iceberg rafted glacial erratics and erosion features are evidence of these events.
Lake-bottom sediments deposited by the floods have contributed to the agricultural richness of the Willamette and Columbia Valleys.