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The empirical basis for modelling glacial erosion rates

Cook, Simon J.; Swift, Darrel A.; Kirkbride, Martin P.; Knight, Peter G.; Waller, Richard I.

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Authors

Simon J. Cook

Darrel A. Swift

Martin P. Kirkbride



Abstract

Glaciers are highly effective agents of erosion that have profoundly shaped Earth’s surface, but there is uncertainty about how glacial erosion should be parameterised in landscape evolution models. Glacial erosion rate is usually modelled as a function of glacier sliding velocity, but the empirical basis for this relationship is weak. In turn, climate is assumed to control sliding velocity and hence erosion, but this too lacks empirical scrutiny. Here, we present statistically robust relationships between erosion rates, sliding velocities, and climate from a global compilation of 38 glaciers. We show that sliding is positively and significantly correlated with erosion, and derive a relationship for use in erosion models. Our dataset further demonstrates that the most rapid erosion is achieved at temperate glaciers with high mean annual precipitation, which serve to promote rapid sliding. Precipitation has received little attention in glacial erosion studies, but our data illustrate its importance.

Citation

Cook, S. J., Swift, D. A., Kirkbride, M. P., Knight, P. G., & Waller, R. I. (2020). The empirical basis for modelling glacial erosion rates. Nature communications, 11, Article 759. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14583-8

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 20, 2020
Publication Date Feb 6, 2020
Journal Nature Communications
Print ISSN 2041-1723
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Article Number 759
DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14583-8
Keywords glaciers; erosion
Publisher URL https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14583-8

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