Space is used as a proxy for time in determining the role of glaciation in shaping valley cross profiles in the Two Thumb Range (Southern Alps), New Zealand. The range is undergoing rapid tectonic transport and uplift as it is advected toward the Alpine fault. Repeated cycles of glacial erosion during the Quaternary have fashioned U-shaped valleys in the north of the range, close to the Main Divide, while valleys in the less glaciated south of the range have rounded divides and convex fluvial cross profiles. Tectonic transport and uplift rates, coupled with an offshore oxygen isotope (d18O) record and glacial- geological reconstructions, allow time constraints to be applied to valley development along the range. Valley width and depth measurements and power-law equations were used to quantify the shape of cross-profile transects in 37 valleys. Valleys evolved into a characteristic U-shaped cross profile formed over =400 k.y. of glacial occupancy. This, regardless of other models of glacial flattening of valley long profiles, suggests that alpine glaciation excavates greater volumes of rock, indicating that glaciers are a more effective erosional agent than fluvial activity in alpine mountain belts.
- Glacial valleys
- Landscape evolution