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Monday, 14 November 2011

Something else very strange - in Novaya Zemlya

An exotic wallpaper design?  A close-up of the surface of a leaf?  An electron microscope photo of part of some bodily organ?  Click to enlarge.

It's actually a satellite image of the ice cap edge in the eastern part of Novaya Zemlya.  The coast is away to the right, and the ice cap is off to the left.  the extraordinary thing about this photo is the close juxtaposition of what is essentially a fluvial landscape (bottom right) and a glaciated landscape to the left.  Why are there not more traces of glacial action in this "fluvial" area?  After all, during the big glacial episodes the ice must have coved the whole of the area covered in the photo.  Don't know the answer to that, but I suspect that it all has something to do with aridity.  The "fluvial" area is probably a very dry undulating area affected above all else by continuous permafrost and frost processes -- there is just not enough water to allow for thick accumulations of snow, let alone glacier ice.  There are similarly arid areas in parts of the Canadian Arctic, on some of the islands.

The other very strange thing here is that there is an interfluve running more or less N-S in the lower part of the photo -- that means that there are a series of cirque glaciers which are flowing westwards -- thus coming into conflict with the ice from the ice cap which is flowing east.  So towards the left edge of the image there are many chaotic "collision zones" and a great deal of meltwater.

2 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

All these amazing photos convinces me we know little of the various landscapes of a melting ice sheet. Certainly, these processes and features would be different for different geological conditions and geographical places.

The relevant question is, how would an ice cover over a thick and absorbent chalk bedrock melt? And how did Salisbury Plain look like at the time when Stonehenge was made?

It is fair to say, no one knows for sure. Even the most science-based view is speculation. The unique chalk bedrock of Salisbury Plain makes Salisbury Plain a unique case, in my opinion. Perhaps never to again be duplicated. So all we may have to go by in reconstructing this episode are the 'facts on the ground'. The hypothesis that best explains all the 'facts on the ground' may be the closest we come to knowing how the landscape looked.

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I have been wondering the same myself. The nearest explanation I have found is the impact and exit event hypothesis.
The rapid onset of glaciers and dysfunctional evidence to the contrary do indeed make for a confused discussion.
What a beautiful place Novaya Zemla is...