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Cryoplanation Terrace Orientation in Alaska

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Exploratory analysis of the orientation of 303 cryoplanation terraces in interior and western Alaska lends tentative support to the hypothesis that these landforms develop through localized erosion related to spatial patterns of snow accumulation and ablation. Cryoplanation terraces exhibit orientation patterns similar to those of cirques in several regions of Alaska. In climatically continental east-central Alaska, cryoplanation terraces are developed preferentially on north-facing slopes and the frequency distribution of terrace orientation is similar to but less concentrated than that of glacial cirques. In south-central Alaska, both cirques and terraces have bimodal frequency distributions corresponding to generalized wind patterns that predominated during Pleistocene glaciations. In western Alaska, terraces and cirques have relatively diffuse patterns without preferred orientation. No clear relation is apparent between the orientation of cryoplanation terraces and their size or elevation, although this may be an artifact of the current inability to differentiate terraces by age. Data from the Eagle Summit/Mastodon Dome area in interior Alaska indicate a possible relation between snowline elevation and the concentration of terrace orientation.

Keywords: Alaska; circular statistics; cryoplanation; directional data; nivation; orientation; periglacial geomorphology; structural terraces

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA

Publication date: 1998-08-01

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