New Paper Published : Sediment yield over glacial cycles: A conceptual model

The temporal variability in sediment export yield from glaciers over a timescale of multiple glacial cycles (e.g. 1 × 102 − 1 × 106 years) is of interest for a wide range of applications in glaciology, sedimentology, geomorphology, climatology and environmental engineering. However, the time required for the products of glacial erosion to be transferred through glaciated catchments and the extent to which glacially-conditioned sediment can be transiently stored within them are still poorly constrained and a matter of debate within the community. We propose a conceptual model of the variability in sediment exported from glaciers over multiple glacial cycles based on a literature review. Sediment yield is likely to be highly variable through a glacial cycle, notably between phases of glacier advance, retreat and re-advance due to changes in ice velocity and erosion rates, ice and meltwater transport capacity, and in glacially-conditioned sediment accessibility at the bed. Typically, early phases of glacier retreat and re-advance are expected to lead to the highest increase in sediment yield due to the ease with which the products of bedrock erosion can be accessed and reworked. In contrast, later phases of glacial (re)advance, once glacially-conditioned sedimentary sources become exhausted, may be characterized by intermediate rates of sediment export yield maintained through bedrock erosion. The latest phases of deglaciation, once glacially-conditioned sedimentary sources are either exhausted, stabilized or disconnected from active processes of sediment transfer, are likely to have the lowest rate of export. The conceptual model proposed in this paper fills a gap in the literature by developing a continuous pattern of sediment yield rate variability over the course of multiple glacial cycles, with wider implications for future research. However, its systematic applicability to various glacier settings and glaciations needs more field and modeling data to validate it.

The paper is published in the journal Progress in Physical Geography and a copy of this paper is freely available here.