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Ice, moraine, and landslide dams in mountainous terrain

Korup, Oliver and TWEED, Fiona (2007) Ice, moraine, and landslide dams in mountainous terrain. Quaternary Science Reviews, 26 (25-28). pp. 3406-3422. ISSN 02773791

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Abstract or description

We review recent work on ice, moraine, and landslide dams in mountainous terrain, thus complementing several comprehensive summaries on glacier dams in intracontinental and Arctic areas of low relief. We discuss the roles of tectonic and climatic forcing on ice-, moraine-, and landslide-dam formation and sudden drainage, and focus on similarities and differences between their geomorphic impacts on confined valleys drained by steep bedrock and gravel-bed rivers.

Despite numerous reported failures of natural dams in mountain belts throughout the world, their relevance to long-term dynamics of mountain rivers remains poorly quantified. All types of dams exert local base-level controls, thus trapping incoming sediment and inhibiting fluvial bedrock incision. Pervasive geomorphic and sedimentary evidence of outburst events is preserved even in areas of high erosion rates, suggesting that sudden dam failures are characterized by processes of catastrophic valley-floor aggradation, active-channel widening, and downstream dispersion of sediment, during which little bedrock erosion seems to be achieved.

We find that, in the absence of direct evidence of former dams, a number of similarities among the geomorphic and sedimentologic characteristics of catastrophic outburst flows may give rise to ambiguous inferences on the dam-forming process. This is especially the case for tectonically active mountain belts where there is ample and comparable potential for the formation and failure of ice, moraine, landslide, and polygenetic dams concomitant with climatic oscillations or earthquake disturbance. Hence, the palaeoclimatic implications of erroneously inferring the cause of dam formation may be significant.

We recommend that future research on natural dams in mountainous terrain addresses (a) climate- and earthquake-controlled systematics in the pattern of formation and failure; (b) quantification of response of mountain rivers to catastrophic outburst events and their concomitant process sequences; (c) elaboration of a comprehensive classification of natural dams in mountainous terrain with special attention to polygenetic dams; (d) physical-based modelling of dam formation, failure, and routing of water and sediment outbursts; and (e) quantitative controls on the contribution of natural dams to sediment budgets in mountainous terrain.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Faculty: Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences > Sciences
Depositing User: Fiona TWEED
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2013 11:54
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2013 11:54
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/1730

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