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Superimposition of ribbed moraines on a palaeo-ice-stream bed : implications for ice stream dynamics and shutdown.

Stokes, C.R. and Lian, O.B. and Tulaczyk, S. and Clark, C.D. (2008) 'Superimposition of ribbed moraines on a palaeo-ice-stream bed : implications for ice stream dynamics and shutdown.', Earth surface processes and landforms., 33 (4). pp. 593-609.


The sediments and landforms preserved on palaeo-ice-stream beds can provide important information about their subglacial conditions and flow mechanisms, and the processes accompanying their shutdown. In this paper, detailed observations of an intriguing subglacial landform assemblage of ribbed moraines superimposed on glacial lineations on the Dubawnt Lake Ice Stream bed (north-west Canadian Shield) are presented, including their morphometry, internal structure (from ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys and from glaciogeological analysis) and sedimentological characteristics (from sediment architecture and lithofacies analysis). The observations suggest an abrupt change in ice dynamics that correlates with two phases of glacial landform development. This hypothesis is based on evidence from a deformed lodgement till, which subsequently underwent brittle deformation and developed prominent thrust (shear) structures and tension fractures. Tension fractures are observed in a sediment exposure and thrust structures are observed in GPR surveys, where they occur most prominently in the ribbed moraine ridge crests. The presence of the fractures, and their association with a population of clasts in the till that are orientated with their a-axes transverse to the inferred ice flow direction, suggests a compressional flow regime. It is therefore inferred that the glacial lineations were formed under an extensional flow regime during ice stream activity, but that at some point patches of till under the ice stream stiffened through dewatering. The subsequent increase in basal shear stress resulted in compressional flow and the development of subglacial thrusting and the building of ribbed moraines. We therefore suggest that ribbed moraines may form in areas of compressional flow under ice streams, i.e. sticky spots, and/or at the transition between slow and fast ice flow along parts of an ice stream. The general absence of ribbed moraines on most other palaeo-ice-stream beds suggests that either these ice streams continued operating during deglaciation or processes other than the development of localized compressional flow (sticky spots) led to their shutdown (e.g. ice depletion).

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Ice stream, Ribbed moraines, Subglacial bedforms, Sticky spots.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Stokes, C. R., Lian, O. B., Tulaczyk, S. and Clark, C. D. (2008), Superimposition of ribbed moraines on a palaeo-ice-stream bed: implications for ice stream dynamics and shutdown. Earth Surf. Process. Landforms, 33(4): 593–609, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:02 May 2014
Date of first online publication:April 2008
Date first made open access:No date available

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