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Subglacial sediment textures: character and evolution at Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland

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Fourteen subglacial debris samples have been recovered from the margins of, or beneath, Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland. The grain-size distributions of these sediments are presented and compared with each other as bivariate plots of percentage weight against (sieve-defined) particle size and log number of particles against log particle diameter. All of the samples recovered are composed of a broad range of clast sizes and approach self-similarity over the four orders of magnitude of grain-sizes analysed. Fractal dimensions range from 2.47 to 2.77. Sample intercomparison reveals the operation of at least two processes of textural evolution: the production of fines by in-situ weathering, interpreted in terms of abrasion associated with subglacial sediment deformation, and the loss of fines, interpreted in terms of eluviation by percolating subglacial meltwaters. These interpretations are supported and refined through comparison of the grain-size fractions gained (in the case of deformation) and lost (in the case of eluviation) with those fractions respectively generated in a laboratory-based simulation of sediment deformation and exiting the glacier suspended in the proglacial meltwater stream. While sediment deformation has the effect of increasing the fine fraction between 0 and 10 and of raising the fractal dimension of undeformed sediments from 2.47 to 2.77, eluviation removes particles between 2 and 10, driving the fractal dimension of deformed sediments down from 2.77 to 2.54. These fractal dimensions are generally lower than those recorded at other comparable glaciers, consistent with the relatively low rates of sediment deformation inferred from other studies at Haut Glacier d'Arolla.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-01-01

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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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