Using the surface profiles of modern ice masses to inform palaeo-glacier reconstructions

Felix S.L. Ng, Iestyn D. Barr, Chris D. Clark

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39 Citations (Scopus)
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Morphometric study of modern ice masses is useful because many reconstructions of glaciers traditionally draw on their shape for guidance Here we analyse data derived from the surface profiles of 200 modern ice masses-valley glaciers icefields ice caps and ice sheets with length scales from 10º to 10³ km-from different parts of the world Four profile attributes are investigated relief span and two parameters C* and C that result from using Nye s (1952) theoretical parabola as a profile descriptor C* and C respectively measure each profile s aspect ratio and steepness and are found to decrease in size and variability with span This dependence quantifies the competing influences of unconstrained spreading behaviour of ice flow and bed topography on the profile shape of ice masses which becomes more parabolic as span Increases (with C* and C tending to low values of 2.5-3.3 m ½) The same data reveal coherent minimum bounds in C* and C for modern ice masses that we develop into two new methods of palaeo glacier reconstruction In the first method glacial limits are known from moraines and the bounds are used to constrain the lowest palaeo ice surface consistent with modern profiles We give an example of applying this method over a three-dimensional glacial landscape in Kamchatka In the second method we test the plausibility of existing reconstructions by comparing their C* and C against the modern minimum bounds Of the 86 published palaeo ice masses that we put to this test 88% are found to be plausible The search for other morphometric constraints will help us formalise glacier reconstructions and reduce their uncertainty and subjectiveness
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3240-3255
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number23-24
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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