Do subglacial bedforms comprise a size and shape continuum?

J. Ely, C.D. Clark, M Spagnolo, C.R. Stokes, S.L. Greenwood, A.L.C. Hughs, P. Dunlop, D. Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)
166 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding the evolution of the ice-bed interface is fundamentally important for gaining insight into the dynamics of ice masses and how subglacial landforms are created. However, the formation of the suite of landforms generated at this boundary — subglacial bedforms — is a contentious issue that is yet to be fully resolved. Bedforms formed in aeolian, fluvial, and marine environments either belong to separate morphological populations or are thought to represent a continuum of forms generated by the same governing processes. For subglacial bedforms, a size and shape continuum has been hypothesised, yet it has not been fully tested. Here we analyse the largest data set of subglacial bedform size and shape measurements ever collated (96,900 bedforms). Our results show that flutes form a distinct population of narrow bedforms. However, no clear distinction was found between drumlins and megascale glacial lineations (MSGLs), which form a continuum of subglacial lineations. A continuum of subglacial ribs also exists, with no clear size or shape distinctions indicating separate populations. Furthermore, an underreported class of bedform with no clear orientation to ice flow (quasi-circular bedforms) overlaps with the ribbed and lineation continua and typically occurs in spatial transition zones between the two, potentially merging these three bedform types into a larger continuum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-119
Number of pages12
Early online date6 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Mar 2016


  • subglacial bedforms
  • drumlins
  • ribbed moraine
  • flutes


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