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Controlled moraines: origins, characteristics and palaeoglaciological implications

Evans, D.J.A.



Controlled moraines are supraglacial debris concentrations that become hummocky moraine upon deicing and possess clear linearity due to the inheritance of the former pattern of debris-rich folia in the parent ice. Linearity is most striking wherever glacier ice cores still exist but it increasingly deteriorates with progressive melt-out. As a result, moraine linearity has a low preservation potential in deglaciated terrains but hummocky moraine tracts previously interpreted as evidence of areal stagnation may instead record receding polythermal glacier margins in which debris-rich ice was concentrated in frozen toe zones. Recent applications of modern glaciological analogues to palaeoglaciological reconstructions have implied that: (a) controlled moraine development can be ascribed to a specific process (e.g. englacial thrusting or supercooling); and (b) controlled moraine preservation potential is good enough to imply the occurrence of the specific process in former glacier snouts (e.g. ancient polythermal or supercooled snouts). These assumptions are tested using case studies of controlled moraine construction in which a wide range of debris entrainment and debris-rich ice thickening mechanisms are seen to produce the same geomorphic features. Polythermal conditions are crucial to the concentration of supraglacial debris and controlled moraines in glacier snouts via processes that are most effective at the glacier–permafrost interface. End moraines lie on a process–form continuum constrained by basal thermal regime. The morphological expression of englacial structures in controlled moraine ridges is most striking while the moraines retain ice cores, but the final deposits/landforms tend to consist of discontinuous transverse ridges with intervening hummocks, preserving only a weak impression of the former englacial structure. These are arranged in arcuate zones of hummocky moraine up to 2 km wide containing ice-walled lake plains and lying down flow of streamlined landforms produced by warmbased ice. A variety of debris entrainment mechanisms can produce the same geomorphic signature. Spatial and temporal variability in process–form relationships will lead to the sequential development of different types of end moraines during the recession of a glacier or ice sheet margin.


Evans, D. (2009). Controlled moraines: origins, characteristics and palaeoglaciological implications. Quaternary Science Reviews, 28(3-4), 183-208.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 1, 2009
Deposit Date May 21, 2010
Journal Quaternary Science Reviews
Print ISSN 0277-3791
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 3-4
Pages 183-208