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Glaciation

This GCSE Geography quiz takes a look at glaciation. Almost all of Britain has been affected by ice and many of the landforms that have been created by glaciation are easily visible today. You are required to study glaciation from a variety of different angles including the erosional and depositional landforms it creates, how it begins and human aspects too.

In the past, there has not always been the same amount of ice on the surface of the planet. The amount of glaciation depends on what is termed the glacial budget. In the same way that a financial budget changes as money is accumulated and spent, the ice present in an ice sheet or an individual glacier changes as more ice is accumulated or lost. When there are higher levels of snowfall than melting, the quantity of ice increases and vice-versa. The glacial budget can be measured season by season or using longer periods of time like decades or centuries. Since the 1950s, the glacial budget for the whole Earth has been negative meaning that the world's glaciers are in retreat.

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Ice is one of the most powerful forces that shapes our landscape and you need to be aware of the erosional processes of glaciation. These include freeze-thaw weathering and the processes of erosion caused by moving ice. As ice moves over a land surface, the front of the ice sheet or glacier will push loose material, including soil, ahead of it. This is termed bulldozing. At the other end of a glacier, in the cwm where the ice is forming, the 'bowl' of ice rotates slowly, causing erosion beneath it. As the ice moves downhill, as it passes over masses of bedrock, it abrades (rubs down like sandpaper) the leading surface then plucks fragments from the trailing (downhill) surface.

When a glacier melts, the material that is being carried on top of the glacier as moraines and within the ice, is left behind. Unlike river erosion, the rock pieces are unsorted and angular in appearance. These are deposited as unstable piles of rock fragments which gradually settle, consolidate and become colonised by plants and animals. The other key depostional feature of glaciation is a drumlin, or rather drumlins as they are usually deposited in groups called swarms.

Areas that are actively affected by snow and ice attract tourists and the winter sports industry is now well established in the more accessible mountain ranges like the Alps and the Rockies. There are always two sides to any human economic development and these winter sports areas need to be carefully managed to strike a balance between the economic needs of the resort, safety and caring for the environment.

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  1. Which of the following is a key difference between deposits from a glacier and deposits left by a river, lake or in the sea?
    In a glacier, the rock fragments are not free to crash into one-another, like they do during saltation in flowing water so they remain angular. Since a glacier is mainly a solid, there is no opportunity for the rock fragments to be sorted. In the case of flowing water, the fragments are sorted according to the speed of the flow of water
  2. A glacial trough is another name for a ...
    One classic example of a glacial trough in Britain is Glen Avon in the Cairngorms
  3. Which of the following best describes the glacial budget?
    If more snow falls than ice melts, the glacier or ice field will advance. If the budget is negative, more ice melts than is formed from the winter snowfall so the glacier retreats. At the present time, climate change means the glacial budget for almost all glaciers is negative so glaciers are retreating
  4. Which of the following statements is not true?
    Drumlins are glacial deposits and not formed by erosion
  5. The Athabasca glacier in the Canadian Rockies is a honeypot site. What is a honeypot site?
    The large numbers of visitors to honeypot sites means that they need to be very carefully managed. In areas where glaciation is the attraction, the dangers to visitors and avoiding damage to fragile ecosystems that would take decades to recover are the two big concerns
  6. Which of the following is not usually formed directly by the passage of a glacier?
    An arête forms above the surface of a glacier where two corries form on opposite sides of a ridge. Rotational erosion caused by the ice formed in the corries erodes the lower slopes on both sides of the ridge, leaving a narrow rock ridge above the level of the ice. This is subjected to freeze-thaw weathering
  7. In a winter sports resort, avalanches are a danger to the tourists who visit. Which one of the following statements about avalanches is false?
    Powder snow avalanches begin at a single point. Slab avalanches begin along a line and a wide slab of snow slides down a slope. Wet snow avalanches occur when snow is melting and occur as wet snow accumulates in gullies and slides downhill at about a fast walking speed
  8. During which months is glacial ablation likely to be greater for a southern hemisphere glacier?
    In the southern hemisphere, summer is at its hottest during these months so glacial ablation will be greater than glacial accumulation
  9. What marks the boundary between the zone of accumulation of a glacier and the zone of ablation?
    Above the snowline, snow falls and adds to the glacier. Below the snowline, no new snow is added so melting and evaporation reduces the mass of ice in the glacier
  10. In the past, the surface of the Earth has been covered by ...
    During the various ice ages, there was more ice, during warm periods like the one that occurred about 55 to 56 million years ago, even the poles were ice-free

Author: Kev Woodward

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