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Glacial erosion and bedrock properties in NW Scotland: Abrasion and plucking, hardness and joint spacing
- Krabbendam, Maarten, Glasser, Neil F.
- Geomorphology 2011 v.130 no.3-4 pp. 374-383
- bedrock, glaciers, hardness, ice, morphometry, sandstone, streams, Scotland
- Subglacial erosion beneath glaciers occurs predominantly by abrasion and plucking, producing distinct erosional forms. The controls on the relative importance of abrasion vs. plucking are poorly understood. On the one hand, glacial conditions that favour or suppress cavity formation (ice velocity, ice thickness, and water pressure) are thought to favour plucking or abrasion, respectively. Conversely, bedrock properties are also known to control landforms, but this has rarely been analysed quantitatively. In this study we compare landforms and bedrock properties of sandstone and quartzite at the bed of a palaeo-ice stream near Ullapool in NW Scotland. The boundary between the rock types is at right angles to the westward palaeo-ice flow, and palaeoglacial conditions on both rock types were similar. We report quantitative parameters for bedrock properties (Schmidt hammer hardness and joint spacing) and use morphometric parameters to analyse the landforms. Torridon sandstone is soft but thick-bedded and with a wide joint spacing. Erosional bedforms include roche moutonnées with smoothed tops and concave stoss sides, whalebacks, and elongate p-forms, indicating a high proportion of abrasion over plucking. Cambrian quartzite is hard but thin-bedded with narrow joint spacing. Erosional landforms are angular to subangular with abundant plucked lee faces, suggesting a high proportion of plucking over abrasion. Hardness and joint spacing thus exert a strong control on subglacial erosional landforms and the mechanisms that formed them. Thus glacial conditions (ice velocity, ice thickness) can only be inferred from glacial erosional landforms if the effects of bedrock properties of the substrate are considered.