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A glacial interpretation for the origin and formation of the Marinet Rock Glacier, Alpes Maritimes, France

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Rock glaciers of the Southern French Alps, specifically the Marinet Rock Glacier, are commonly thought to have a ‘permafrost origin’. However, there are other rock glaciers in the Southern French Alps found in association with small corrie glaciers, suggesting that glacier ice has a role to play in their formation. At the Marinet Rock Glacier, results from ground surveys, relationships between debris and ice input, lichen dating and historical documentation suggest a glacial rather than a permafrost origin. Rock glacier palaeovelocities, calculated for an ice core within the rock glacier, suggest that it once moved much faster (up to 20 ma-1) than at present (<0.04 ma-1). This difference can be accommodated by a glacial explanation with development of the rock glacier over a 300 year period from the beginning of the Little Ice Age (derived from lichenometry). This relatively recent origin, compared to that required for a permafrost origin, accounts for the unstable nature of the rock glacier surface and its lack of vegetation. The very limited rock glacier movement shown at present (< 0.04 ma-1) is explained by the thinning of the ice core underneath a rock debris cover.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Geosciences, The Queen's University of Belfast, UK

Publication date: October 1, 1998


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