Geomorphology and sedimentology of surging glaciers: a land-systems approach

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The identification of surging glaciers and ice streams in glaciated landscapes is of major importance to the understanding of ice-sheet dynamics and for reconstructing ice sheets and climate. No single landform or diagnostic criterion has yet been found with which to identify surging glaciers. A surging-glacier land-system model is constructed using observations and measurements from contemporary surging-glacier snouts in Iceland, Svalbard, U.S.A. and Canada for differentiating ancient surging margins from other non-surging palaeoglaciers. This integrates the suite of landforms, sediments and stratigraphy produced at surging-glacier margins. Landforms produced during surging include thrust moraines, concertina eskers and subglacial crevasse-squeeze ridges. Sedimentary sequences are usually characterized by multiple stacked diamictons and stratified interbeds, which display severe glaciotectonic contortion and faulting. Hummocky moraine, comprising interbedded stratified sediments and mass-flow diamictons, has also been associated with surge margins where large quantities of supraglacial and englacial debris entrained during the surge event have melted out in situ. An example of the application of the land-system model is presented for east-central Alberta, Canada. A surging palaeo-ice stream is identified within this part of the southwestern Laurentide ice sheet, where thrust-block moraines, crevasse-squeeze ridges, flutings, hummocky moraine and glaciotectonized sediments are juxtaposed.

Document Type: Research Article


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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