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Unequal ice-sheet erosional impacts across low-relief shield terrain in northern Fennoscandia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


K. Ebert, A.M. Hall, J. Kleman, J. Andersson


Much previous work on Late Cenozoic glacial erosion patterns in bedrock has focussed on mountain areas. Here we identify varying impacts of ice sheet erosion on the low-relief bedrock surface of the Fennoscandian shield, and examine the geological, topographical and glaciological controls on these patterns.We combine GIS-mapping of topographical, hydrological and weathering data with field observations. We identify and investigate areas with similar geology and general low relief that show different degrees of ice sheet erosional impact, despite similar ice cover histories. On two transects with a total area of ~84000km across the northern Fennoscandian shield, we first establish patterns of glacial erosion and then examine why glacially streamlined areas exist adjacent to areas of negligible glacial erosion. The northern transect includes two areas of exceptional glacial preservation, the Parkajoki area in Sweden and the so-called ice divide zone in Finland, each of which preserve tors and deep saprolite covers. The southern transect, overlapping in the northern part with the first transect, includes areas of well developed glacial streamlining, with bedrock areas stripped of loose material and barely any weathering remnants.For both areas, we firstly present contrasting indicators for ice sheet erosional impact: streamlined and non-streamlined inselbergs; parallel and dendritic/rectangular drainage patterns; and the absence and presence of Neogene weathering remnants. This is followed by an investigation of factors that possibly influence ice sheet erosional impact: ice cover history, ice cover duration and thickness, bedrock type and structure, and topography.We find that the erosional impact of the Fennoscandian ice sheet has varied across the study area. Distinct zones of ice sheet erosion are identified in which indicators of either low or high erosion coexist in the same parts of the transects. No direct impact of rock type on glacial erosion patterns was found, but an indirect control appears clear. Bedrock geology and long-term differential weathering and tectonic evolution determined the topography of the pre-glacial landscape, and these topographic differences subsequently influenced ice sheet dynamics and thereby partly controlled patterns of ice sheet erosion. Ice cover duration and former ice thickness were not significant controls on glacial erosion patterns. Extensive preservation of pre-glacial relief through low glacial erosion is attributed to the maintenance throughout the Pleistocene of divergent flow and frozen-bed conditions in the Fennoscandian ice sheet. In contrast, glacial streamlining and strong glacial erosion were caused mainly by acceleration of flow around major obstacles and flow towards major depressions on the ice sheet bed. The relatively strong ice sheet erosion towards the Gulf of Bothnia is the result of a combination of favourable factors: bedrock structure and river valleys aligned sub-parallel to ice sheet flow and convergent ice flow towards the Baltic.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2015

    Research areas

  • Fennoscandian shield, Ice sheet erosional impacts, Glacial preservation, GIS-mapping

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ID: 172100585