Conclusions

The evidence presented above provides a diagnostic assemblage of landforms (landsystem) for use in the identification of former plateau icefields (Fig. 16.15). Contemporary plateau icefields in both sub-polar and temperate environments have developed similar geomorphic signatures, which have been identified in ancient landform assemblages and associated with a plateau icefield style of glaciation rather than a more traditional alpine reconstruction (e.g. English Lake District). The landsystem can be employed in conjunction with the plateau altitude/breadth relationship depicted in Fig. 16.1 and the empirical relationship shown in the equation to identify the presence of former glaciers and the possible existence of plateau icefields. The importance of identifying plateau icefields (beyond the need for correct geomorphological and glaciological interpretations of former glaciation) is highlighted by the data presented in Figs 16.18 and 16.20. The ELA for a region could be significantly miscalculated if plateau icefield mass contributions to valley glaciers are ignored. The error increases as the proportion of the contributing area increases. As with all geomorphological research, it is apparent that knowledge of modern day analogues is central to an understanding of ancient glaciations. The landsystem model presented here provides the tool for reassessing regional/local glaciation in areas where plateaux are found. In some instances this may provide the key to explaining previously anomalous ELA calculations.

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