Marine and terrestrial archives can be used to reconstruct the development of glacially influenced depositional environments on Svalbard in time and space during the late Cenozoic. The marine archives document sedimentary environments, deposits and landforms associated with the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) when Svalbard and the Barents Sea were covered by continental-scale marine-based ice sheet, the last deglaciation and the work of tidewater glaciers in interglacial setting as today. The terrestrial archives record large-scale Quaternary glacial sculpturing and repeated build-up and decay of the Svalbard–Barents Sea ice sheet. The fingerprinting of Quaternary glaciations on Svalbard reflects the transition from a full-glacial mode, with very extensive coverage by the Svalbard–Barents Sea ice sheet and subsequent deglaciation, to an interglacial mode with valley, cirque and tidewater glaciers as active agents of erosion and deposition. Conceptual models for Svalbard glacial environments are useful for understanding developments of glacial landforms and sediments in formerly glaciated areas. Svalbard glacial environments, past and present, may serve as analogues for interpreting geological records of marine-terminating and marine-based ice sheets in the past.
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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.