Reconstructing the basal thermal regime of an ice stream in a landscape of selective linear erosion: Glen Avon, Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland

Adrian M. Hall*, Neil F. Glasser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The Cairngorm Mountain area of Scotland is a classic example of a landscape of selective linear glacial erosion, with sharp contrasts in the intensity of glacial erosion between the deeply incised troughs and valleys and the undulating high plateau. This article examines the Quaternary development of Glen Avon, a 200 m deep glacial trough set within the high plateau of the mountains. Evidence concerning the aggregate basal thermal regimes of the topographically controlled ice streams that formerly developed in this area is reconstructed from the geomorphological record, including bedforms indicative of wet-based, sliding ice and of dry-based ice frozen to its bed. This mapping indicates that basal sliding was not confined exclusively to the troughs but extended towards valley heads and on to parts of the plateau adjacent to troughs. The extent of basal sliding appears to have been greatest beneath pre-Late Devensian ice sheets. Basal ice temperatures are modelled under steady-state conditions for the last ice sheet at c. 18 ka BP. Basal thermal regimes are predicted using a reconstruction of the preglacial relief and for the current topography of the area. Convergent flow of ice through the preglacial valley system appears to have been sufficient to induce basal melting and therefore to initiate valley deepening. This effect is enhanced when the model is run across the present topography. Comparison of results of the geomorphological mapping and the modelling reveals significant differences between the actual and predicted extent of basal sliding outside the main ice stream. The overall conclusion is that many ice streams in mountainous terrain are inherited from the locations of preglacial valleys, which serve to accelerate ice flow and promote frictional heating beneath ice sheets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-207
Number of pages17
JournalBoreas: An International Journal of Quaternary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003


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