N. Eyles (2006)
The role of meltwater in glacial processes; Sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy of fluvial deposits; a tribute to Andrew Miall
Sedimentary Geology, 190(1-4):257-268.
Water plays a dominant role in many glacial processes and the erosional, depositional and climatic significance of meltwaters and associated fluvioglacial processes cannot be overemphasized. At its maximum extent c. 20,000 years ago, the volume of the Laurentide ice sheet was 33 X 10 (super 6) km (super 3) (about the same as the volume of all ice present today on planet Earth). The bulk of this was released as water in little more than 10,000 years. Pulses of meltwater flowing to the Atlantic Ocean from large ice dammed lakes altered thermohaline circulation of the world's oceans and global climate. One such discharge event via Hudson Bay at 8200 years BP released 160,000 km (super 3) of water in 12 months. Global sea levels recovered from glacial maximum low stands reached at about 20,000 years ago at an average rate of 15 m per thousand years but estimates of shorter term rates suggest as much as 20 m sea level rise in 1000 years and for short periods, rates as high as 4 m per hundred years. Meltwaters played a key role in lubricating ice sheet motion (and thus areal abrasion) across the inner portions of the ice sheet where it slid over rigid crystalline bedrock of the Canadian Shield. The recharge of meltwater into the ice sheets bed was instrumental in generating poorly sorted diamict sediments (till) by sliding-induced shearing and deformation of overpressured sediment and soft rock. The transformation of overpressured till into hyperconcentrated slurries in subglacial channels may have generated a highly effective erosional tool for selective overdeepening and sculpting of bedrock substrates. Some workers credit catastrophic subglacial 'megafloods' with the formation of drumlins and flutes on till surfaces. Subglacial melt river systems were instrumental in reworking large volumes of glaciclastic sediment to marine basins; it has been estimated that less than 6% of the total volume of glaciclastic sediment produced during the Pleistocene remains on land. Fluvioglacial and glaciolacustrine sediments and landforms dominate large tracts of the 'glacial' landscape in North America. The recharge of subglacial meltwater into underlying bedrock and sediment aquifers created transient reversals in the long-term equilibrium flow directions of basinal fluids. With regard to pre-Pleistocene glacial record, meltwaters moved enormous volumes of terrestrial 'glaciclastic' sediment to marine basins and thus played a key role in preserving a record of glaciation, a record otherwise almost entirely lost on land.