Glacial ripping: geomorphological evidence from Sweden for a new process of glacial erosion

Hall, Adrian M.; Krabbendam, Maarten; van Boeckel, Mikis; Goodfellow, Bradley W.; Hättestrand, Clas; Heyman, Jakob; Palamakumbura, Romesh N.; Stroeven, Arjen P.; Näslund, Jens-Ove. 2020 Glacial ripping: geomorphological evidence from Sweden for a new process of glacial erosion. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 102 (4). 333-353.

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In low relief Precambrian gneiss terrain in eastern Sweden, abraded bedrock surfaces were ripped apart by the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet. The resultant boulder spreads are covers of large, angular boulders, many with glacial transport distances of 1–100 m. Boulder spreads occur alongside partly disintegrated roches moutonnées and associated fracture caves, and are associated with disrupted bedrock, which shows extensive fracture dilation in the near surface. These features are distributed in ice-flow parallel belts up to 10 km wide and extend over distances of >500 km. Our hypothesis is that the assemblage results from (1) hydraulic jacking and bedrock disruption, (2) subglacial ripping and (3) displacement, transport and final deposition of boulders. Soft sediment fills indicate jacking and dilation of pre-existing bedrock fractures by groundwater overpressure below the ice sheet. Overpressure reduces frictional resistance along fractures. Where ice traction overcomes this resistance, the rock mass strength is exceeded, resulting in disintegration of rock surfaces and ripping apart into separate blocks. Further movement and deposition create boulder spreads and moraines. Short boulder transport distances and high angularity indicate that glacial ripping operated late in the last deglaciation. The depths of rock mobilized in boulder spreads are estimated as 1–4 m. This compares with 0.6–1.6 m depths of erosion during the last glaciation derived from cosmogenic nuclide inventories of samples from bedrock surfaces without evidence of disruption. Glacially disrupted and ripped bedrock is also made ready for removal by future ice sheets. Hence glacial ripping is a highly effective process of glacial erosion.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0435-3676
Date made live: 09 Jun 2020 12:49 +0 (UTC)

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