Evolution of high-Arctic glacial landforms during deglaciation

N. G. Midgley (Lead / Corresponding author), T. N. Tonkin, D. J. Graham, S. J. Cook

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Abstract

Glacial landsystems in the high-Arctic have been reported to undergo geomorphological transformation during deglaciation. This research evaluates moraine evolution over a decadal timescale at Midtre Lovénbreen, Svalbard. This work is of interest because glacial landforms developed in Svalbard have been used as an analogue for landforms developed during Pleistocene mid-latitude glaciation. Ground penetrating radar was used to investigate the subsurface characteristics of moraines. To determine surface change, a LiDAR topographic data set (obtained 2003) and a UAV-derived (obtained 2014) digital surface model processed using structure-from-motion (SfM) are also compared. Evaluation of these data sets together enables subsurface character and landform response to climatic amelioration to be linked. Ground penetrating radar evidence shows that the moraine substrate at Midtre Lovénbreen includes ice-rich (radar velocities of 0.17 m ns−1) and debris-rich (radar velocities of 0.1–0.13 m ns−1) zones. The ice-rich zones are demonstrated to exhibit relatively high rates of surface change (mean thresholded rate of −4.39 m over the 11-year observation period). However, the debris-rich zones show a relatively low rate of surface change (mean thresholded rate of −0.98 m over the 11-year observation period), and the morphology of the debris-rich landforms appear stable over the observation period. A complex response of proglacial landforms to climatic warming is shown to occur within and between glacier forelands as indicated by spatially variable surface lowering rates. Landform response is controlled by the ice-debris balance of the moraine substrate, along with the topographic context (such as the influence of meltwater). Site-specific characteristics such as surface debris thickness and glaciofluvial drainage are, therefore, argued to be a highly important control on surface evolution in ice-cored terrain, resulting in a diverse response of high-Arctic glacial landsystems to climatic amelioration. These results highlight that care is needed when assessing the long-term preservation potential of contemporary landforms at high-Arctic glaciers. A better understanding of ice-cored terrain facilitates the development of appropriate age and climatic interpretations that can be obtained from palaeo ice-marginal landsystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
JournalGeomorphology
Volume311
Early online date29 Mar 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2018

Fingerprint

glacial landform
deglaciation
landform
ice
moraine
ground penetrating radar
glacier
remediation
radar
substrate
meltwater
glaciation
warming
rate
Pleistocene
drainage
timescale

Keywords

  • Ground penetrating radar (GPR)
  • Ice-cored moraine
  • Midtre Lovénbreen, Svalbard
  • Structure-from-motion (SfM)
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

Cite this

Midgley, N. G. ; Tonkin, T. N. ; Graham, D. J. ; Cook, S. J. / Evolution of high-Arctic glacial landforms during deglaciation. In: Geomorphology. 2018 ; Vol. 311. pp. 63-75.
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Evolution of high-Arctic glacial landforms during deglaciation. / Midgley, N. G. (Lead / Corresponding author); Tonkin, T. N.; Graham, D. J.; Cook, S. J.

In: Geomorphology, Vol. 311, 15.06.2018, p. 63-75.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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N2 - Glacial landsystems in the high-Arctic have been reported to undergo geomorphological transformation during deglaciation. This research evaluates moraine evolution over a decadal timescale at Midtre Lovénbreen, Svalbard. This work is of interest because glacial landforms developed in Svalbard have been used as an analogue for landforms developed during Pleistocene mid-latitude glaciation. Ground penetrating radar was used to investigate the subsurface characteristics of moraines. To determine surface change, a LiDAR topographic data set (obtained 2003) and a UAV-derived (obtained 2014) digital surface model processed using structure-from-motion (SfM) are also compared. Evaluation of these data sets together enables subsurface character and landform response to climatic amelioration to be linked. Ground penetrating radar evidence shows that the moraine substrate at Midtre Lovénbreen includes ice-rich (radar velocities of 0.17 m ns−1) and debris-rich (radar velocities of 0.1–0.13 m ns−1) zones. The ice-rich zones are demonstrated to exhibit relatively high rates of surface change (mean thresholded rate of −4.39 m over the 11-year observation period). However, the debris-rich zones show a relatively low rate of surface change (mean thresholded rate of −0.98 m over the 11-year observation period), and the morphology of the debris-rich landforms appear stable over the observation period. A complex response of proglacial landforms to climatic warming is shown to occur within and between glacier forelands as indicated by spatially variable surface lowering rates. Landform response is controlled by the ice-debris balance of the moraine substrate, along with the topographic context (such as the influence of meltwater). Site-specific characteristics such as surface debris thickness and glaciofluvial drainage are, therefore, argued to be a highly important control on surface evolution in ice-cored terrain, resulting in a diverse response of high-Arctic glacial landsystems to climatic amelioration. These results highlight that care is needed when assessing the long-term preservation potential of contemporary landforms at high-Arctic glaciers. A better understanding of ice-cored terrain facilitates the development of appropriate age and climatic interpretations that can be obtained from palaeo ice-marginal landsystems.

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