We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Surface morphology of fans in the high-Arctic periglacial environment of Svalbard : controls and processes.

de Haas, T. and Kleinhans, M.G. and Carbonneau, P. and Rubensdotter, L. and Hauber, E. (2015) 'Surface morphology of fans in the high-Arctic periglacial environment of Svalbard : controls and processes.', Earth-science reviews., 146 . pp. 163-182.


Fan-shaped landforms occur in all climatic regions on Earth. They have been extensively studied in many of these regions, but there are few studies on fans in periglacial, Arctic and Antarctic regions. Fans in such regions are exposed to many site-specific environmental conditions in addition to their geological and topographic setting: there can be continuous to discontinuous permafrost and snow avalanches and freeze–thaw cycles can be frequent. We study fans in the high-Arctic environment of Svalbard to (1) increase our fundamental knowledge on the morphology and morphometry of fans in periglacial environments, and (2) to identify the specific influence of periglacial conditions on fans in these environments. Snow avalanches have a large geomorphic effect on fans on Svalbard: the morphology of colluvial fans is mainly determined by frequent snow avalanches (e.g., flattened cross-profiles, exposed fine-grained talus on the proximal fan domain, debris horns and tails). As a result, there are only few fans with a rockfall-dominated morphology, in contrast to most other regions on Earth. Slush avalanches contribute significant amounts of sediment to the studied alluvial fans. The inactive surfaces of many alluvial fans are rapidly beveled and leveled by snow avalanches, solifluction and frost weathering. Additionally, periglacial reworking of the fan surface often modifies the original morphology of inactive fan surfaces, for example by the formation of ice-wedge polygons and hummocks. Permafrost lowers the precipitation threshold for debris-flow initiation, but limits debris-flow volumes. Global warming-induced permafrost degradation will likely increase debris-flow activity and -magnitude on fans in periglacial environments. Geomorphic activity on snow avalanche-dominated colluvial fans will probably increase due to future increases in precipitation, but depends locally on climate-induced changes in dominant wind direction.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Alluvial fan, Colluvial fan, Periglacial, Snow avalanche, Debris flow, Svalbard.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Earth-Science Reviews. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Earth-Science Reviews, 146, July 2015, 10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.04.004.
Date accepted:06 April 2015
Date deposited:13 April 2015
Date of first online publication:15 April 2015
Date first made open access:15 April 2016

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar