The Canadian high arctic comprises the Queen Elizabeth Islands, located north of Parry Channel (Fig. 3.1), a geologically and physiographically complex archipelago with widespread glaciers and ice caps above 1000 m above sea level (Miller et al., 1975). The greatest relief occurs in the fretted mountains of northern and eastern Ellesmere Island, eastern Devon Island and central Axel Heiberg Island, where glaciers are at their most extensive (Koerner, 1977; Hodgson, 1989). This terrain grades into ridge and valley and dissected plateau landscapes on the remainder of Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg and Devon islands. Elsewhere, the smaller islands of the central and western parts of the archipelago are characterized by lowland and plain topography, and glacier ice cover is minimal, being restricted to small, scattered masses like the Meighen ice cap (Koerner,
The climate of the Queen Elizabeth Islands is dominated by anticyclonic air masses centred over the Arctic Ocean and cyclonic activity over Baffin Bay (Maxwell, 1980; Edlund and Alt, 1989). Mean annual temperature ranges from -16 °C to -19 °C, and the northern part of the archipelago is subject to extreme aridity (Bovis and Barry, 1974; Edlund and Alt, 1989). Permafrost is ubiquitous throughout the region and reaches depths of greater than 500 m, even at coastal sites (Taylor et al., 1983). Although some ice caps are large (e.g. Agassiz Ice Cap and Prince of Wales Icefield; Fig. 3.1), the surface morphology of glaciers in the region is strongly controlled by the underlying bedrock topography and their margins are characterized by outlet valley/fjord glaciers or piedmont lobes. Moreover, due to their smaller accumulation zones, glacier velocities in the Queen Elizabeth Islands are relatively low compared with Greenland and Antarctic outlet glaciers (Iken, 1974; Koerner, 1989; Reeh, 1989). Beyond the terrestrial margins and fjord-outlet glaciers of the Greenland Ice Sheet, northern Greenland is characterized by small plateau ice fields and large areas of ice-free terrain (Dawes, 1987; Funder, 1989; Reeh, 1989; Weidick, 1995).
We now highlight the glaciological processes common to the sub-polar glacier margins of the Canadian and Greenland high arctic and link them to characteristic landform-sediment
assemblages (landsystems). Although emphasis is placed upon terrestrial margins, fjord depositional settings are also discussed.
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