Glacial geomorphology: towards a convergence of glaciology and geomorphology

This review presents a perspective on recent trends in glacial geomorphological research, which has seen an increasing engagement with investigating glaciation over larger and longer timescales facilitated by advances in remote sensing and numerical modelling. Remote sensing has enabled the visualization of deglaciated landscapes and glacial landform assemblages across continental scales, from which hypotheses of millennial-scale glacial landscape evolution and associations of landforms with palaeo-ice streams have been developed. To test these ideas rigorously, the related goal of imaging comparable subglacial landscapes and landforms beneath contemporary ice masses is being addressed through the application of radar and seismic technologies. Focusing on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, we review progress to date in achieving this goal, and the use of radar and seismic imaging to assess: (1) subglacial bed morphology and roughness; (2) subglacial bed reflectivity; and (3) subglacial sediment properties. Numerical modelling, now the primary modus operandi of 'glaciologists' investigating the dynamics of modern ice sheets, offers significant potential for testing 'glacial geomorphological' hypotheses of continental glacial landscape evolution and smaller-scale landform development, and some recent examples of such an approach are presented. We close by identifying some future challenges in glacial geomorphology, which include: (1) embracing numerical modelling as a framework for testing hypotheses of glacial landform and landscape development; (2) identifying analogues beneath modern ice sheets for landscapes and landforms observed across deglaciated terrains; (3) repeat-surveying dynamic subglacial landforms to assess scales of formation and evolution; and (4) applying glacial geomorphological expertise more fully to extraterrestrial cryospheres.


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Authors: Bingham, Robert G., King, Edward C. ORCIDORCID record for Edward C. King, Smith, Andrew M. ORCIDORCID record for Andrew M. Smith, Pritchard, Hamish D. ORCIDORCID record for Hamish D. Pritchard

On this site: Andy Smith, Ed King, Hamish Pritchard
1 January, 2010
Progress in Physical Geography / 34
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