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Palaeoglacial and palaeoclimatic conditions in the NW Pacific, as revealed by a morphometric analysis of cirques upon the Kamchatka Peninsula

Barr, ID and Spagnolo, M (2013) Palaeoglacial and palaeoclimatic conditions in the NW Pacific, as revealed by a morphometric analysis of cirques upon the Kamchatka Peninsula. Geomorphology, 192. pp. 15-29. ISSN 0169-555X

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Abstract

The distribution of glacial cirques upon the Kamchatka peninsula, Far Eastern Russia, is systematically mapped from satellite images and digital elevation model data. A total of 3758 cirques are identified, 238 of which are occupied by active glaciers. The morphometry of the remaining 3520 cirques is analysed. These cirques are found to show a very strong N bias in their azimuth (orientation), likely resulting from aspect-related variations in insolation. The strength of this N bias is considered to indicate that former glaciation upon the peninsula was often 'marginal', and mainly of cirque-type, with peaks extending little above regional equilibrium-line altitudes. This is supported by the fact that S and SE-facing cirques are the highest in the dataset, suggesting that glacier-cover was rarely sufficient to allow S and SE-facing glaciers to develop at low altitudes. The strength of these azimuth-related variations in cirque altitude is thought to reflect comparatively cloud-free conditions during former periods of glaciation. It is suggested that these characteristics, of marginal glaciation and comparatively cloud-free conditions, reflect the region's former aridity, which was likely intensified at the global Last Glacial Maximum, and during earlier periods of ice advance, as a result of the development of negative pressure anomalies over the North Pacific (driven by the growth of the Laurentide Ice Sheet), combined with other factors, including an increase in the extent and duration of sea ice, a reduction in global sea levels, cooler sea surface temperatures, and the localised growth of mountain glaciers. There is published evidence to suggest extensive glaciation of the Kamchatka Peninsula at times during the Late Quaternary, yet the data presented here appear to suggest that such phases were comparatively short-lived, and that smaller cirque-type glaciers were generally more characteristic of the period. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

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