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Assessment of requirements for cirque formation in northern Sweden

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Cirques in the Rassepautasjtjåkka massif currently lack glaciers and the geomorphology indicates that no glaciers occupied the cirques during the Holocene. The current climatic conditions in the cirques can be assessed using available climatic data; air temperature at Rassepautasjtjåkka, summer and winter balances of adjacent glaciers, and general precipitation patterns in northern Sweden. The data suggest that either a significant change in precipitation and wind regime or a moderate change in temperature is required to initiate a cirque glacier in the massif. Formation of a wet-based erosive glacier requires warmer winters with higher accumulation rates, equivalent to a more maritime influence in the area. Studies of current atmospheric circulation suggest that strong west–east circulation, associated with a northerly position of the polar front, is favourable for increased accumulation. Using typical erosion rates from present glaciers, we see that ∼10% of the last 3 Myr may be required for forming the Rassepautasjtjåkka cirques. This is a significant portion of time since most of the glacial cycles are spent in states of interglacials, maximum glaciation or mountain-based glaciation. Marine sediments from the Norwegian Sea provide indications of minor glaciations back to ∼12.6 Myr and, hence, cirque-formation periods are not restricted to Quaternary. Thus, it is possible that many cirque forms have a much longer history than previously recognized.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756499781821959

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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