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Geography 4141 Glacial Environments

Course Description

Glacial environments are scenically and scientifically among the most exciting and complex on Earth. Although only 10% of the Earth's land surface today is covered by ice, during the Quaternary glaciations of the past two million years this figure was some three times higher. Consequently, we need to understand the characteristics of glaciers to appreciate fully the geomorphology of a considerable portion of the earth's surface. This requirement is even more critical for Canadians because most of the country has at one time been inundated by ice and broad elements of the Canadian landscape are directly attributable to its recent glacial heritage.

The study of glacial environments has broad application to environmental and earth sciences. Employment opportunities in such areas as water management, waste disposal, mineral exploration and civil engineering (to name just a few) require a comprehensive knowledge of the surficial glacial deposits that cover so much of the populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Moreover, the search for natural resources, and issues of national defence and sovereignty in arctic regions have forced 'northern' countries like Canada to appreciate the unique processes that characterize glacial environments.

This course is designed to introduce you to the landform and sedimentary elements of past and present glacial environments. We will explore the interrelationships between the geomorphology / sedimentology of glaciated areas and the glaciological processes that determine their character and distribution. This will involve the study of glacier physics and dynamics, glacial erosional processes and landforms, environments of terrestrial glacial deposition, glaciofluvial processes and landforms, and glaciomarine (and to a lesser degree glaciolacustrine) processes and sediments. The final list of course topics may be influenced by your interests and preferences.

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