Ice-marginal and periglacial processes and sediments: an introduction
I. Peter Martini, Hugh M. French, Augusto Pérez Alberti, 2011. "Ice-marginal and periglacial processes and sediments: an introduction", Ice-Marginal and Periglacial Processes and Sediments, I. P. Martini, H. M. French, A. PéRez Alberti
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The volume focuses on the analysis of glacial clastic sedimentary deposits, both ancient and recent. The papers range from reviews of glacial systems and cold-climate weathering products and processes to conceptual and field studies of specific ice-marginal and cold-climate sediments. Papers are included that deal with tidewater glaciers, mountain settings on Earth, permafrost areas on both Earth and Mars and detailed regional analyses of cold-climate sediments of Late Pleistocene and Holocene age. The identification of sedimentary facies allows an accurate reconstruction of many of the developmental processes that are involved in ice-marginal and periglacial environments. Lithostratigraphic characteristics of clastic deposits also constitute circumstantial evidence for the previous existence of ancient, and certainly pre-Quaternary, cold-climate systems. This is demonstrated by a study on putative Palaeozoic glacial deposits in Saudi Arabia.
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Understanding the sediments deposited by glaciers or other cold-climate processes assumes enhanced significance in the context of current global warming and the predicted melt and retreat of glaciers and ice sheets.
This volume analyses glacial, proglacial and periglacial settings focusing, among others, on sedimentation at termini of tidewater glaciers, on hitherto not-well-understood high-mountain features, and on sediments such as slope and aeolian deposits whose clasts were sourced in glacial and periglacial regions, but have been transported and deposited by azonal processes. Difficulties are thus often encountered in inferring Pleistocene and pre-Pleistocene cold-climate conditions when the sedimentary record lacks many of the specific diagnostic indicators. The main objective of this volume is to establish the validity and limitations of the evidence that can be obtained from widely distributed clastic deposits, in order to achieve reliable palaeogeographic and palaeoclimatic reconstructions. At a more general level and on the much longer geological timescale, an understanding of ice-marginal and periglacial environments may better prepare us for the unavoidable reversal towards cooler and perhaps even glacial times in the future.