Ice and Snow as Land-Forming Agents

Darrel A. Swift, Simon Cook, Tobias Heckmann, Jeffrey Moore, Isabelle Gärtner-Roer, Oliver Korup

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Many high-latitude and high-altitude regions are covered by ice and snow for substantial parts of the year, and typically, the landscape of such regions bears the strong imprint of ice- and snow-related processes operating over Quaternary to modern timescales. Despite strong research interest in the nature, rate, and efficacy of cold-region geomorphic processes, most research has been devoted to glacier and permafrost phenomena, whereas comparably few studies have quantitatively addressed the role of snow as a land-forming agent. In this chapter, we review the current research on land-forming processes related to glacial erosion and deposition; permafrost and periglacial processes; and snow-related processes such as nivation, snow creep, and snow avalanching. Our objective is to highlight those questions that drive current research and those that seem sufficiently promising to further our understanding of geomorphic form and process in the cryosphere. We do so bearing in mind that such process knowledge is essential for successfully predicting form and process, and hence avoiding snow- and ice-related hazards. We discuss whether certain aspects concerning the role of ice and snow as land-forming agents may have been overrated or underrated, if not overlooked, in the context of comprehensive studies on landscape evolution in polar and high mountainous terrain. We conclude by outlining a number of recommendations for future research in the field.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSnow and Ice-Related Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
    EditorsWilfried Haeberli, Colin Whiteman, J. F. Shroder Jr.
    Place of PublicationAmsterdam
    PublisherElsevier Inc.
    Number of pages33
    ISBN (Electronic)9780123964731
    ISBN (Print)9780123948496
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Avalanche
    • Erosion
    • Geomorphology
    • Glacial
    • Ice
    • Periglacial
    • Permafrost
    • Sediment
    • Snow

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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