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Glaciers and Glacial Deposits. Glaciers Climate indicators –Growth is episodic (advance and retreat) Long term changes (Miller et al.) in Cenozoic (and.

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Presentation on theme: "Glaciers and Glacial Deposits. Glaciers Climate indicators –Growth is episodic (advance and retreat) Long term changes (Miller et al.) in Cenozoic (and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Glaciers and Glacial Deposits

2 Glaciers Climate indicators –Growth is episodic (advance and retreat) Long term changes (Miller et al.) in Cenozoic (and earlier) Shorter term changes associated with insolation (100 ky and 23 ky cycles- Milankovitch Cycles) High resolution changes (< 1000 years) –Mini- ice ages (Washington crossed frozen Delaware) Use physical characteristics of glacial processes to infer climate –e.g., Pangaea was covered with glaciers »So America, Africa, India, Australia

3 Types of Glaciers Alpine- elevation dependent –valley glaciers confined to within mountain walls –piedmont glaciers form at base of mountain and are coalesced valley glaciers Continental- high latitude –3 scales –ice sheets only in Antarctica and Greenland; over 50,000 km2 –includes ice caps (Smaller ice sheets) –ice shelves (extend over sea; floats on water).



6 Growth Function of water budget and mass balance –add snow, keep it through summer above snow line! or cold summer temps like poles –begin to build glacier as snow becomes more dense (Snow->Firn ->then glacial ice) –CAN’T GROW W/O SNOW! –Add snow; lose snow Balanced if acc. = ablation Growth if accumulation > ablation

7 Growth Balance between amount of ppt (growth) and amount of melt (ablation) –add ppt, more glacier/ advance/ Wax –ablation- water melts down snout of glacier, thinning and retreating ablate, less glacier / retreat/ Wane

8 Growth/ Motion Glacial motion –1x10  cm/s to 2x10  cm/s (max ~ 1 m/day) –flows as high-viscosity fluid; –SQUEEZED fastest flow on top; lower towards base and walls entrains sediments

9 Environments 4 environments to describe glacier itself basal (subglacial) zone –in contact with bed supraglacial zone –upper surface of the glacier ice- contact zone –around margin of glacier englacial zone –within glacial interior

10 Surrounding environments Proglacial –area around glacier but not in contact –influenced by melting ice Outwash plain –glaciolacustrine, glaciofluvial, glaciomarine Periglacial –non-glacial phenomena that function in cold climates –permafrost


12 Life History Glacier builds, begins to move Glacier erodes and entrains sediments –Glaciers rework its own sediment as glacier advances and retreats –Most sediment is incorporated as glacier moves along Sediments are usually compositionally and texturally immature –Traverses hills, previously deposited moraines –Rocks at base are scoured scratches bedrock; striations // to flow

13 Life History Death! –melts back (rarely completely) –glacier actually always has a forward motion mass of ice squeezes it forward even in retreat melts completely when nose thins to ~ 50 m thickness leaves sedimentary deposit Till –Previously incorporated sediment which melts out –Poorly sorted Outwash –tunnels often run beneath ice, flushing out sediments –or breaks off in to sea eventually breaks off into the ocean




17 Erosion Processes Glaciers affect land surface by eroding it and/or leaving landforms behind Erosion –scrapes up sediment –erodes rock cirque- deep erosional recess arete- as cirques grow headward horn- pointed, 3-sided col- knifes edge boundary between adjacent cirques y/glossary.html#erosionallandforms

18 horn

19 cirque

20 arete

21 col

22 Hanging valley

23 U-shaped valley


25 Grooves

26 Till –material deposited as glacier retreats –gravel, pebbles, sand, mud –rocks are ground as glacier moves Glacial Deposits -Till



29 Glacial Deposits- Moraines –End moraine when glacier stalls (low accumulation relative to ablation), glacier continues to move debris to melting snout; this is the accumulation –Lateral Marginal debris is concentrated along edges of glacier –bound by wall –Medial where lateral moraines join, can form in middle –Ground sheet of debris developed during retreat –Recessional like end, but occurs during retreat

30 End

31 Medial, Lateral This photo shows two medial moraines (blue arrows) as seen from the air. The black arrows point to lateral moraines that have formed along the sides of the valley wall. Where the two main glaciers shown in the photo flow together, their lateral moraines join to form a medial moraine. The medial moraine on the right formed in the same way, however we can't see where the glaciers flow together to form the moraine.

32 Ground

33 Rivers and Lakes Rivers –Generally braided streams, especially near glacial front lots of coarse but fines also present too


35 Rivers and Lakes Lakes –forms from damming (ice or moraine damming as glaciers drain water –most sediments (and water) released in summer Laminated sediments accumulate finer sediments (glacial flour) –1 varve = 2 layers (couplet) of light (summer) and dark (winter –delta may form at river mouth coarse sediments closest to river; sediments thin away from delta –generally better sorted than river; no clays –distal should find dropstones turbidites from sediment overload ; density driven lobes of sediments




39 Eolian Winds attack deposits on outwash plains –lead to loess deposits –most effective after glacial melt and before re- vegetation –cap the facies by reworking glacial sediments


41 Glacial- marine little reworking –when glacier meets sea it dumps load –sediments can fall out of melting glaciers (IRD) IRD- Ice Rafted Debris –silty freshwater plume rides over denser, saline water –sediments settle out of suspension turbidity current




45 Other glacial features Kettles- small lakes –small piece of ice breaks off and is covered by sediments, then melts Eskers- –water flow thru tunnels stops and deposits seds; tunnel eventually collapses; leaves snakey deposits which remain after ice has melted; coarse seds accumulate under tunnels; often well- sorted (fluvial- like) Drumlin – tear-drop shaped mounds; glacier deposits material and then rides over it; // to flow Glacial erratics –boulders and other rocks which don’t match regional lithology (carried in)


47 esker


49 drumlin


51 Glacial Erratic

52 Proglacial area just in front of glacier –ice contact environment –sediments are released form melting at front of ice there is very little integrated drainage –small lakes, mudflows, river deposits –sediments are a jumbled mess! sorting improves with more distal areas –lakes, rivers, deltas At most distal regions –cap of eolian sediments –dunes, ripples

53 Facies- ON LAND Diamict –poorly sorted glacial deposits Diamictites –consolidated diamict Unstratified diamictites –land-based deposit –pebbles are often dominant –may be aligned with long axes dipping upstream –often bimodal (pebbles and matrix of sand, silt, clay) Stratified diamictites –ice contact sediments –transported by meltwater (braided streams) –Unimodal Till

54 Differentiating from Non- glacial Glaciofluvial braided streams –Very hard to differentiate from non-glacial streams Glaciolacustrine –Look for range in particle size reflecting seasonal contributions possible slumps close to glacier Varves Other clues to glacial environment –outwash plains dunes may be present (sands picked up by winds) –loess- deflation of angular grains of silts; unstratified

55 Facies-AT SEA Proximal –glacier margin in direct contact with sea –submarine fans (delta- like) coarse cobbles, gravels at top of fans sands, gravels in stream channels IRD – scattered muds, sands- suspended seds which settle out

56 Distal facies –away from direct contact with glacier –icebergs melt –IRD- fine and coarse –iceberg grounding icebergs touch bottom and erode and rework it –some stratification –marine fossils –IRD =glaciomarine drift

57 Vertical Facies Succession Advance/ retreat of glaciers leads to destruction/ reworking of previously deposited sediments Vertical accumulation –best way to differentiate is regional pattern. –common to northern US, saw advance/ retreat of glacers in Pleistocene at ~ 100 ky periods with wiggles at 23 ky.

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