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The pre-glacial landscape of Antarctica

Sugden, D.E.; Jamieson, S.S.R.

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D.E. Sugden


The geomorphology of the hidden subglacial landscape of Antarctica is relevant to our understanding of the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and also to that of global interactions between plate tectonics and surface processes. We believe that geomorphology has much to contribute, but that the lack of coherent hypotheses about the origins of the subglacial landscape is holding back understanding. This paper approaches the problem by using southern hemisphere land masses in Africa and Madagascar as analogues. We find that the Antarctic landscape evolved in a similar way to passive margin evolution in southern Africa. Rifting associated with the breakup of Gondwana changed river base levels and caused rapid erosion on the flanks of rifts and was accompanied by the uplift of rift-margin mountains. Rift-margin plains, often coastal or extending inland along large rivers, are backed by an escarpment, while low-gradient continental river basins characterised the interior of Antarctica. In East Antarctica ice has removed pre-existing regolith from lowlands and excavated 2–3 km troughs below sea level along the course of major trunk rivers. The micro-continents of West Antarctica are comparable to Madagascar and apparently share a similar topography with coastal plains, backing escarpments and interior plateaux.


Sugden, D., & Jamieson, S. (2018). The pre-glacial landscape of Antarctica. Scottish Geographical Journal, 134(3-4), 203-223.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 5, 2018
Online Publication Date Oct 26, 2018
Publication Date Oct 26, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 8, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 30, 2018
Journal Scottish Geographical Journal
Print ISSN 1470-2541
Electronic ISSN 1751-665X
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 134
Issue 3-4
Pages 203-223


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (5.8 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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