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Are long subglacial bedforms indicative of fast ice flow?

Stokes, C.R.; Clark, C.D.


C.D. Clark


It has been suggested that extremely long subglacial bedforms (e.g. attenuated drumlins and mega-scale glacial lineations) record former areas of fast-flowing ice and that bedform elongation ratio is a useful proxy for ice velocity. Despite the availability of much data pertaining to the measurement and analysis of subglacial bedforms, these assumptions have rarely been explicitly addressed in detail. In this paper, we demonstrate that long subglacial bedforms (length:width ratios ge10:1) are indicative of fast ice flow. Using satellite imagery, we mapped over 8000 lineaments associated with a highly convergent flow pattern near Dubawnt Lake, District of Keewatin, Canada. This flow pattern is unusual in that it displays a large zone of convergence feeding into a main 'trunk' and then diverging towards the inferred ice margin. The 'bottleneck' pattern is taken to record an increase and subsequent decrease in ice velocity and we analysed transverse and longitudinal variations in bedform morphometry. The main trunk of the flow pattern (down-ice of the convergent zone) is characterized by mega-scale glacial lineations of great length (up to 13 km) and high elongation ratios (up to 43:1). The down-ice variations in elongation ratio reflect exactly what we would expect from a terrestrial ice stream whose velocity increases in the onset zone passes through a maximum in the main trunk and slows down as the ice diverges at the terminus. It is suggested that any unifying theory of drumlin formation must be able to account for the association between long subglacial bedforms and fast ice flow, although it is not assumed that fast ice flow always produces attenuated bedforms. A further implication of this work is that many more ice streams may be identified on the basis of attenuated subglacial bedforms, radically altering our views on the flow dynamics of former ice sheets.


Stokes, C., & Clark, C. (2002). Are long subglacial bedforms indicative of fast ice flow?. Boreas: An International Journal of Quaternary Research, 31(3), 239-249.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2002-09
Deposit Date Apr 2, 2007
Journal Boreas
Print ISSN 0300-9483
Electronic ISSN 1502-3885
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 3
Pages 239-249