Glacial geology: Ice sheets and landforms, 2nd edition, by Matthew R. Bennett and Neil F.Glasser. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, UK, 2009. No. of pages: xiii + 385. (paperback). ISBN: 978-0-470-51691-1


Over the years the text book market for glacial geology and glacial geomorphology has been dominated by academic scholars from the UK. This book is not only the second edition, but it has much of its antecedents in the earlier Sugden and John text Glaciers and Landscape (1976). In the preface they acknowledge the influence exerted on their careers by Geoffrey Boulton and David Sugden; indeed, in the ‘Index’ it appears that Boulton is the only name to appear in the subject and geographic index! As one of many individuals who has worked in North America for the last 40–50 years, this dominance of the UK school leaves me to wonder when we might see a North American text to follow-on the classic texts of the late Professor Richard Flint (1971)? why there is a need for a North American-based text, simply stated, is that ‘geography’ does have a role in directing the kinds of illustrations and research that enter into a text. Thus, Bennett and Glasser's present text is much stronger in terms of identifying examples from Iceland/northwestern Europe than it is from, say, the Great Lakes region of North America or the Canadian/Alaskan arctic. That is to be expected, but it does indicate the real need for a ‘North American’ text.

I taught glacial geology at the University of Colorado for 35 years and, notwithstanding the comments noted above, this is a text that I would probably have seriously considered, probably used, in my senior undergraduate/graduate course. The second edition has appeared 13 years after the original publication and thus it contains a significant amount of more recent research including two new chapters, ‘Glaciations around the globe’ and ‘Palaeoglaciology’. The latter chapter is, in effect, a consideration of the reconstruction of former ice sheets based on glacial geologic/geomorphic data. The chapters are well illustrated by a variety of figures, including photographs, satellite imagery and a large number of clear, sometimes coloured, sketches. Inserted within each chapter are a number of ‘boxes’ that expand discussion. Any student using this book will emerge with a solid and up-to-date background on this subject, which is dear to my own heart. Each chapter has its own set of references, which makes sense in many ways, but it makes it difficult to judge the totality of the covered literature.

What might have been covered better and what do I disagree with? One striking omission is that there is no mention of Heinrich events, evidence for which is widespread throughout the North Atlantic (Heinrich, 1988; Andrews, 1998). They are a striking demonstration that large, marine-based ice sheets did, indeed, collapse rapidly and repeatedly over the course of the last glacial cycle. This might have been used in connection with the state of the present-day West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which might show the same response under a climate warming scenario. Another objection (Box 5.6) is the unfortunate resurrection of White's notion of deep erosion at the centre of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, essentially Hudson Bay. As was pointed out in replies to White's paper (1972), Hudson Bay is floored by a thick sequence of Palaeozoic carbonates, which incidentally make up a large fraction of Heinrich event sediments, a fact ignored by White.

A fundamental part of any particular process is its time-varying and spatially varying rate. The issue of the rate of glacial erosion is covered to some extent, but I could see no reference to various computations that assessed the rate of glacial erosion through an analysis of the sediment accumulated in fjords or deep-sea basins. The papers by Laine (1980) and Bell & Laine (1985) spring to mind as important examples of this approach.

In summary, this a significantly revised text that will provide a strong basis for an undergraduate (UK) or undergraduate/graduate (USA/Canada) course in glacial geology.