Micromorphological evidence of liquefaction, injection and sediment deposition during basal sliding of glaciers

Phillips, Emrys; Lipka, Ewelina; van der Meer, Jaap J.M.. 2013 Micromorphological evidence of liquefaction, injection and sediment deposition during basal sliding of glaciers. Quaternary Science Reviews, 81. 114-137.

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The sliding of an ice mass over its bed represents one of the main mechanisms for the forward motion of glaciers and ice sheets, facilitated by the periodic introduction of meltwater along the ice-bed interface or regelation of the overriding ice. In the geological record, however, physical evidence of this process having occurred beneath former ice masses is apparently limited. This paper presents the results of a detailed micromorphological study of thinly stratified subglacial tills exposed at two sites: (i) Galmis in Switzerland and (ii) Plumpe Farm, near Gretna in SW Scotland. The stratification within these tills comprises alternating layers of massive to weakly foliated diamicton and variably deformed (folded, faulted) laminated silt and clay. Microtextural and microstructural evidence is interpreted in terms of repeated phases of basal sliding as the ice overrode a soft-sediment bed. Elevated meltwater contents/pressures encountered immediately prior to, and during basal sliding promoted localised liquefaction within the bed. Decoupling of the ice mass from its bed enabled the injection of the liquefied diamicton along the ice-bed interface and/or into the laminated sediments immediately adjacent to this boundary. The laminated silts and clays record the settling out of fines (clay, silt) from meltwater trapped along the ice-bed interface after an individual phase of basal sliding has ceased. Injection of till into the locally water saturated silts and clays resulted in partial liquefaction and incomplete mixing of these fine-grained sediments with the diamicton. Density contrasts between the two liquefied sediments led to the development of a complex ‘vinaigrette-like’ texture comprising rounded to irregular till pebbles within a matrix of variably homogenised silty clay. Recoupling of the ice with its bed led to localised folding and thrusting within the laminated silts and clays, hydrofracturing and injection of a network of sand-filled veins, and the imposition of a variably developed clast microfabric in the diamicton layers. Analysis of the clast microfabrics indicates that the intensity of these fabrics is highly variable reflecting the variation in the intensity of deformation imposed by the overriding ice.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 02773791
Date made live: 06 Jan 2014 09:56 +0 (UTC)

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