The sedimentology and geomorphology of rock avalanche deposits on glaciers



This article describes and compares the deposits of four large landslides on two glaciers in Alaska using field mapping and remote sensing. Digital image analysis is used to compare the sedimentological characteristics of nearly 200 000 individual surface blocks deposited by three landslides at Black Rapids Glacier in 2002. The debris sheets of one of the three landslides on Black Rapids Glacier and a landslide emplaced on Sherman Glacier in 1964 are also investigated. The three landslides on Black Rapids Glacier have undergone little post-depositional modification by glacier flow, whereas the Sherman Glacier landslide has been transported supraglacially up to ca 1 km over the past 46 years. The three debris sheets on Black Rapids Glacier have coarse blocky rims at their distal edges, and all four debris sheets have longitudinal flowbands characterized by differences in texture and produced by shearing within the moving debris. Elongated blocks are parallel to flow, except at the perimeter of the debris sheets, where they are aligned more perpendicular to flow. Blocks on the Sherman Glacier debris sheet have been reoriented by glacier flow. The matrix shows no systematic differences with depth or distance from the source. However, it appears to become coarser over a time scale of decades due to weathering.