In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Glacial and Periglacial Geomorphology

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Climatic Geomorphology
  • Early Process Studies
  • Conceptual Models of Glacial and Periglacial Landscape Evolution
  • The 21st Century
  • 21st-Century Convergences

Geography Glacial and Periglacial Geomorphology
John C. Dixon
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0072


Glacial and periglacial geomorphology are those branches of geomorphology concerned with the evolution of landscapes in high latitudes and altitudes. They have been inextricably linked within the history of geomorphology for two principal reasons. First and foremost, the two are connected because together they deal with the role of water in the solid state in landscape evolution and through geotechnical and hydrological aspects related to water resource scarcity and environmental change.

Glacial geomorphology is concerned principally with the role of glacial ice in landform and landscape evolution while periglacial geomorphology is fundamentally concerned with the development of landscapes in cold, nonglacial environments. Unlike the obviously profound impact glacial ice has on landscape evolution, periglacial conditions are often viewed as acting to modify landscapes in cold climates and not to form distinctive landscapes in their own right. Many workers view periglacial processes as being azonal (frost action, water, wind, snow, for instance) that vary only in intensity and frequency in cold climates. Only cryogenic weathering, permafrost processes, and deposition of ice-rich sediments are viewed as being uniquely periglacial.

Introductory Works

The strong linkage between the two fields is demonstrated in a number of monographic works that appeared in the 1960s and 1970s. Embleton and King 1968 is among the earliest of these contributions. The English translation of the classic French book on the geomorphology of cold climates, Tricart 1969, followed quickly. In the early 1970s, the first of several North American books covering periglacial environments appeared. Washburn 1973, a work on periglacial environments and processes, is the first of these. In 1976, a further periglacial text appeared by Hugh French, a volume that subsequently underwent two revisions with the latest that of French 2007. In the mid-1970s one of the earliest attempts to link glaciology and glacial landforms appeared with Sugden and John 1976, which deals with glaciers and landscapes. Published in the late 20th century, Benn and Evans 1998 is a work on glaciers and glaciation that deals comprehensively with glacial processes and forms. Early seminal work integrating glacial and periglacial geomorphology in Russia has been made available to the English-speaking world by means of Yershov 1998, a translated volume on geocryology. In the early 21st century, Martini, et al. 2001 is an introductory text dealing with glacial geomorphology and geology.

  • Benn, Douglas I., and David J. A. Evans. Glaciers & Glaciation. London: Arnold, 1998.

    Comprehensive coverage of glacial processes and environments and accompanying erosional and depositional landforms. The significance of this book lies in its systematic treatment of processes and forms associated with the complexity of glacial environments. The book represents a comprehensive update of Embleton and King 1968.

  • Embleton, Clifford, and Cuchlaine A. M. King. Glacial and Periglacial Geomorphology. London: Edward Arnold, 1968.

    This book represents the first comprehensive English text dealing with the forms and processes of both glacial and periglacial landscape development. The glacial section integrates processes with resulting forms while the periglacial section focuses on permafrost, patterned ground, mass wasting, frost action, and wind.

  • French, Hugh M. The Periglacial Environment. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118684931

    A classic volume focused on the environmental setting of periglacial processes. The book examines the broad range of periglacial forms and processes but focuses on cold climate weathering, permafrost, ground ice, and thermokarst. Overall, this book is the most comprehensive monograph dealing with periglacial processes available. Published originally in 1976.

  • Martini, I. P., M. E. Brookfield, and Steven Sadura. Principles of Glacial Geomorphology and Glacial Geology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001.

    This book provides an introduction to glaciers and glaciation and resulting landforms. It briefly examines the nature of periglacial forms and processes. The last part of the book explores the principles of glacial geology. The utility of the book is in the breadth of its scope.

  • Sugden, David E., and Brian S. John. Glaciers and Landscape. New York: Wiley, 1976.

    Significant text that marks the first attempt to link glaciological processes to the evolution of glaciated landscapes. Unlike its predecessors, this book examines the glaciological processes responsible for erosion-dominated landscapes, deposition-dominated landscapes, and subglacial processes and forms.

  • Tricart, Jean. Geomorphology of Cold Environments. London: Macmillan, 1969.

    Originally published in French in 1963, this English translation represents access to one of the first comprehensive compilations of the nature of forms and processes occurring in cold climates. In addition, the book examines the extent of glacial climates during the Quaternary, a theme that emerged in association with the glacial theory.

  • Washburn, A. L. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes. London: Edward Arnold, 1973.

    This text focuses on periglacial forms and processes especially as they relate to permafrost characteristics and dynamics. The work incorporates many of the author’s groundbreaking work on periglacial processes operating in the high Arctic.

  • Yershov, E. D. General Geocryology. Translated by P. J. Williams. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511564505

    This volume represents an important Russian perspective on the integration of glacial and periglacial geomorphology. A strong focus is placed on the role of permafrost in glacial and periglacial processes. Published originally in Russian as Obshcheya Geokroilogiya (Moscow: Bedra, 1990)

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