How glaciers entrain and transport basal sediment: Physical constraints

R. B. Alley, K. M. Cuffey, E. B. Evenson, J. C. Strasser, D. E. Lawson, G. J. Larsonh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

317 Scopus citations


Simple insights from the physics of ice, water and sediment place constraints on the possible sediment-transport behavior of glaciers and ice sheets. Because glaciers concentrate runoff, streams generated by glaciers transport much sediment and may erode bedrock rapidly. Deforming glacier beds also can transport much sediment, particularly in marginal regions. Rapid sediment entrainment producing thick debris-rich basal zones may occur by regelation into subglacial materials, and by freeze-on from rising supercooled waters. Numerous other mechanisms may be important but primarily near ice margins, especially those of advancing or fluctuating glaciers. Several sediment-entrainment mechanisms may be active beneath a single glacier, but one process is likely to be dominant at any place and time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1038
Number of pages22
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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