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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Evans, D.J.A. & Hiemstra, J.F. Till deposition by glacier submarginal, incremental thickening. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 2005;30:1633-1662.

Author(s) from Durham


Macro- and micro-scale sedimentological analyses of recently deposited tills and complex push/squeeze moraines on the forelands of Icelandic glaciers and in a stacked till sequence at the former Younger Dryas margin of the Loch Lomond glacier lobe in Scotland are used to assess the depositional processes involved in glacier submarginal emplacement of sediment. Where subglacial meltwater is unable to flush out subglacial sediment or construct thick debris-rich basal ice by cumulative freeze-on processes, glacier submarginal processes are dictated by seasonal cycles of refreezing and melt-out of tills advected from up-ice by a combination of lodgement, deformation and ice keel and clast ploughing. Although individual till layers may display typical A and B horizon deformation characteristics, the spatially and temporally variable mosaic of subglacial processes will overprint sedimentary and structural signatures on till sequences to the extent that they would be almost impossible to classify genetically in the ancient sediment record. At the macro-scale, Icelandic tills display moderately strong clast fabrics that conform to the ice flow directions documented by surface flutings; very strong fabrics typify unequivocally lodged clasts. Despite previous interpretations of these tills as subglacial deforming layers, micro-morphological analysis reveals that shearing played only a partial role in the emplacement of till matrixes, and water escape and sediment flowage features are widespread. A model of submarginal incremental thickening is presented as an explanation of these data, involving till slab emplacement over several seasonal cycles. Each cycle involves: (1) late summer subglacial lodgement, bedrock and sediment plucking, subglacial deformation and ice keel ploughing; (2) early winter freeze-on of subglacial sediment to the thin outer snout; (3) late winter readvance and failure along a decollement plane within the till, resulting in the carriage of till onto the proximal side of the previous year's push moraine; (4) early summer melt-out of the till slab, initiating porewater migration, water escape and sediment flow and extrusion. Repeated reworking of the thin end of submarginal till wedges produces overprinted strain signatures and clast pavements.


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Department of Geography