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Rock slope failure and landscape evolution in the Caledonian Mountains, as exemplified in the Abisko area, northern Sweden

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Paraglacial rock slope failure (RSF) is here studied as a locally major contributor to mountain landscape evolution in the Caledonian ranges. Dense RSF clusters exist in Scotland and Norway, but overall RSF distribution in Scandinavia is poorly known. In the Abisko area, air photo scrutiny confirms the reported incidence of sparse but significant RSF. In the Kärkevagge complex, the Rissa RSF is one of the largest in northern Europe, with a scar volume of 42 Mm3. The well–known Giant Boulder Deposit (GBD) is a rock avalanche emanating from the Rissa RSF scar, the interpretation of wholesale valley wall retreat at deglaciation being discounted. In the adjacent valley of Vassivagge, a major RSF on Vuoitasrita has a similar area and morpholocation, but lacks a GBD. It has consumed 5–10% of the relict preglacial mountain surface. Both RSFs are near incipient watershed breaches in valleys which may have undergone vigorous enlargement during the last stadial. Glaciation history may explain spatial incidence as well as neotectonic and other triggers. The localised geomorphic impact of RSF in the Abisko mountains is high by comparison with contemporary slope processes. The cumulative impact of paraglacial RSF over the Quaternary may have been considerable, and RSF may be an indicator of concentrated late–stage glacial erosion.
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Keywords: Kärkevagge; macrogeomorphology; paraglacial; preglacial landscape; rock avalanche; rock slope failure

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Mountain Landform Research, Stirling, Scotland

Publication date: 01 January 2002

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