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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Storrar, R.D., Stokes, C.R. & Evans, D.J.A. A map of large Canadian eskers from Landsat satellite imagery. Journal of Maps. 2013;9:456-473.

Author(s) from Durham


Meltwater drainage systems beneath ice sheets are a poorly understood, yet fundamentally important environment for understanding glacier dynamics, which are strongly influenced by the nature and quantity of meltwater entering the subglacial system. Contemporary sub-ice sheet meltwater drainage systems are notoriously difficult to study, but we can utilise exposed beds of palaeo-ice sheets to further our understanding of subglacial drainage. In particular, eskers record deposition in glacial drainage channels and are widespread on the exposed beds of former ice sheets. This paper presents a 1:5,000,000 scale map of >20,000 large eskers (typically > 2 km long) deposited by the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS), mapped from Landsat imagery of Canada, in order to establish a dataset suitable for analysis of esker morphometry and drainage patterns at the ice sheet scale. Comparisons between eskers mapped from Landsat imagery and aerial photographs indicate that, in most areas, approximately 75% of eskers are detected using Landsat. The data presented in this map build on and extend previous work in providing a consistent map of an unprecedented sample of eskers for quantitative analysis. It offers an alternative perspective on the problems surrounding ice-sheet meltwater drainage and can be used for: (i) detailed investigations of esker morphometry and distribution from a large sample size; (ii), testing of numerical models of meltwater drainage routing that predict esker characteristics (e.g. channel spacing, sinuosity), (iii) assessment of the factors that control esker location and formation; and (iv), a refined understanding of ice margin configurations during retreat of the LIS.

Department of Geography