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7/22/2016

Geography101Online

THENATURALENVIRONMENT

Geography101Online

ErosionbyIce

ToC

Themostpowerfulerosiveforceofallismovingice.
Whenakilometerthickicesheetrumblesoverthe
land,mountainsmove.Whenmillionsoftonnesof
glaciergrinddownhill,valleyswiden.

EROSION

Theamountoficeonlandgrows
andshrinkswiththeglobal

climate,whichchangesfairly
rapidlyingeologictime.Only
20,000yearsago,about30%of
Earth'slandareawascovered
withice.Today,thatfigureisonly10%.Manyofthe
landformsweseetodaywerecarvedduringearlier,
colderperiodsinEarth'shistory.Mostofthepasttwo
millionyears,infact,havebeenmuchcolderthan
today'sclimate.

Wind
Waves
Coasts
Glaciers

1.Whatistherelationshipbetweentheamount
ofice,globaltemperatures,andsealeveland
howhavetheychangedoverthepasttwo
millionyears?
2.Distinguishbetweenicesheets,highlandice
fields,andalpineglaciers.
3.Whatareglacialpluckingandabrasion?
4.Whataresomeerosionallandformsofglaciers?
5.Whataresomedepositionallandformsof
glaciers?
6.WhatevidenceexistsofglaciationinHawai'i?
7.HowwastheHawaiianenvironmentaffected
duringperiodsofglaciation?

BOX1

Geologistscallthattwomillionyearperiodthe
PleistoceneEpoch.ThePleistocenewasatimeofwidelyfluctuatingtemperatures,withbothcoldglacial
andwarmerinterglacialperiods,asshowninthediagram.ThePleistoceneended10,000yearsagowith
rapidglobalwarming,themeltingofhugecontinentalicesheets,andacorrespondingriseinsealevel.Since
then,wehavebeeninthewarmerHoloceneEpoch.Inreality,theHoloceneisprobablyjustanother
interglacialperiodandweshouldexpectthenextdeepcoolingglacialperiodtobeginwithinafewthousand
years,assumingthathumancausedglobalwarmingdoesnotinterferewiththenaturalcycle.

Thefigureaboveshowssealevelchanges,notglobaltemperaturechanges,butthetwoareinterlinked.
Duringglacialperiods,iceaccumulatesonlandandsealevelsdropaswatertransfersfromoceanstoland.
Then,duringwarmerinterglacials,largeexpansesoficemeltaddingwatertotheglobaloceanandraisingsea
levels.
Largeiceformationsarecategorizedas:
1.Continentalicesheetscoverhundredsofthousandsofsquarekilometersandareuptothree
kilometersthick.Twoicesheetsremain,onecoveringGreenlandandtheothercoveringAntarctica.At
onetime,however,icesheetscoveredmostofNorthAmerica,NorthernEurope,andNorthernAsia.
2.Highlandicefields,orcontinentalglaciers,forminhighmountainbasinsandsubmergeall
topographyexceptthehighestmountains.ThesearecommoninWesternCanada,SouthernAlaska,
andIceland,andmayproducemanysmallerglaciersflowingoutofmountainpasses.
3.Alpineglaciersaresmallindividualglaciersstreamingdownthesidesofhighmountains.Theymake
uponlyasmallportionofthetotalicereservoir,butarethemostfamiliarlargeiceformation.

Erosion
Glaciersresultfromthebuildupofsnow.Asthesnowdeepens,thelowerlayersunderpressuregradually
recrystallizeintosolidice.Whentheicethickensenough,thelowerlayersbecomeplasticandflow,carrying
theentireglacialmassdownhill.Theupper,colderreachesoftheglacierarecalledtheaccumulationzone.
Thisisthesourceareaforglacialice.Thelower,warmerendoftheglacier,whichlosesicebyevaporationand
melting,iscalledtheablationzone.Theveryendoftheglacieriscalledthetongue.Ificeintheablation
zoneismeltingfasterthantheglacierismovingdownhill,thetonguewillmoveuphillandtheglacierissaidto
beretreating.Iftheglacierismovingdownhillfasterthantheablationzoneandtonguearemelting,the
glacierissaidtobeadvancing.

Astheicemoves,iterodesthesurfacelargelybyabrasion.Chunksofrockbecomefrozeninto
thebaseoftheglacier(aprocessappropriatelycalledplucking)andactaspowerfulsandpaper
thatscrapesandpulverizesbedrock.Abrasionleavesarelativelysmoothsurface,oftenmarked
withparallelgroovescalledglacialstriations.
https://laulima.hawaii.edu/access/content/group/2c084cc18f08442b80e8ed89faa22c33/book/chapter12/glaciers.htm

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Geography101Online

Glacialerosioncreatesdistinctivelandforms.Theaccumulationzonebecomes
gougedoutintoabowllikedepressioncalledacirque.Cirquesmaymeetat
knifeedgedridgescalledartes,ormayflowoutwardfromanisolated
mountaincarvingoutapyramidshapedpeakcalledahorn,suchas
Switzerland'sfamousMatterhorn.
AstheglaciermovesdownhillitgougesoutU
shapedvalleys.Theseareeasilyrecognizable
anddistinctfromtheVshapedvalleyscarvedby
runningwater.Sealevelriseduringinterglacial
periodsmayfloodtheUshapedvalley,creating
long,narrowinletsoftheseacalledfiords.Asa
glacierwidensarivervalley,itmayremovethevalleysofsmallsidestreams,leaving
thestreamstoemptydirectlydownthenewlycreated,steepwallscreatingahangingwaterfalls,suchas
BridalVeilFallsinYosemiteValley.

Deposition
Glacialdriftisageneraltermforthepulverizedrocksandotherdebrisleftbehindbymovingglaciers.Drift
depositsattheendandsidesofglaciersarecalledmoraines,asshowninthediagramabove.Theyinclude
terminalmoraines(whichmarkthefarthestadvanceofthetongue),lateralmoraines(alongthesides),
andmedialmoraines(markingwheretwoglaciersmetandflowedsidebyside).
Glaciersandicesheetsmaycarryrockshundredsofkilometersfromtheirsourcearea.When
theicemelts,theserocksareleftinareastheydonotmatchgeologically.Largeboulders
thusdepositedarecalledglacialerratics.Tensofthousandsoferraticsexcavatedfromthe
CanadianShieldwerecarriedsouthwardanddroppedoffinwhatisnowtheUnitedStates.

Hawai'i
AlthoughHawai'idoesnotevokeimagesofglaciers,duringthePleistoceneEpoch,MaunaKeaandMaunaLoa
weretoppedwithcapsofice.Manyreliclandformsfromseveralperiodsofglaciationexistatthesummitof
MaunaKea.MaunaLoahasbeensovolcanicallyactivethatlavaflowshaveobliteratedanyglacialfeatures
thatmayhaveonceexisted.

ThefigureshowsthemostprominentglaciationepisodesonMaunaKea.Terminalmorainesidentifythe
lowestlevelsoftheglaciers.BecausetheBigIslandisslowlysinkingatabout4mm/year,theterminal
morainesarefoundatlowerelevationstodaythanwhentheyformed.ManyglacialfeaturesexistonMauna
Kea,includingglacialstriations,moraines,andglacialerratics.Thephotographshowsaterminalmoraine
abovePohakuloaStateParkintheSaddlearea.NotehowflatthemountainhasbeenscrapedabovetheV
shapedterminalmoraine.
Duringthesecoldperiods,changewasnotconfinedtothesummitofMaunaKea.21,000yearsago,for
example,sealevelwasabout100meters(300feet)lowerthantoday.Thisexposedlandbridgesconnecting
Maui,Lana'i,andpossiblyMoloka'i,andproducedwavecutnotchesandterracesbelowtoday'ssealevel.
EvidencefrompollenanalysissuggeststhatHawaiianvegetationzonesmovedtolowerelevationsinresponse
tocoolertemperatures.Thekoazone,forexample,whichtodaydominatesbetween1600and2100meters
(5000and7000feet),droppeddownto500to1100meters(1500to3600feet).Ananalysisofpollen,soils,
anderosionalfeaturessuggeststhattheclimatewasslightlywetteratlowelevationsbutdrierbetween1000
and2000meters(3000and6000feet)duringcolderperiods.Thelowermountaindryzonemayhavebeen
theresultofaloweraveragealtitudeofthetradewindinversion.

Author'sNote:Ihopeyouhavefoundsomethingofvalueinthiscoursethathelpsyourunderstandingofthenatural
worldandencouragesyoutolearnmoreabouttheenvironmentofHawai'iandelsewhere.Thankyoufor
participatinginthecourse.

ToC|EROSION|Wind|Waves|Coasts|Glaciers

DennisNullet
KapiolaniCommunityCollegeGeography

https://laulima.hawaii.edu/access/content/group/2c084cc18f08442b80e8ed89faa22c33/book/chapter12/glaciers.htm

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