Using a GIS filtering approach to replicate patterns of glacial erosion

Neil F. Glasser, K. I. T. Dahlgren, Göran Alm, A. P. Stroeven, Krister N. Jansson, B. W. Goodfellow

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5 Citations (SciVal)


In order to extend our knowledge of glacial relief production in mountainous areas new methods are required for landscape reconstructions on a temporal resolution of a glacial cycle and a spatial resolution that includes the most important terrain components. A generic data set and a 50 m resolution digital elevation model over a study area in northern Sweden and Norway (the present day landscape data set) were employed to portray spatial patterns of erosion by reconstructing the landscape over successive cycles of glacial erosion. A maximum-value geographic information system (GIS) filtering technique using variable neighbourhoods was applied such that existing highpoints in the landscape were used as erosional anchor points for the reconstruction of past landscape topography. An inherent assumption, therefore, is that the highest surfaces have experienced insignificant down-wearing over the Quaternary. Over multiple reconstruction cycles, proceeding backwards in time, the highest summits increase in area, valleys become shallower, and the valley pattern becomes increasingly simplified as large valleys become in-filled from the sides. The sum of these changes reduces relief. The pattern of glacial erosion, which is to 60% correlated to slope angle and to 70% correlated to relative relief, is characterized by (i) an abrupt erosional boundary below preserved summit areas, (ii) enhanced erosion in narrow valleys, (iii) restricted erosion of smooth areas, independently of elevation, (iv) eradication of small-scale irregularities, (v) restricted erosion on isolated hills in low-relief terrain, and (vi) a valley widening independent of valley directions. The method outlined in this paper shows how basic GIS filtering techniques can mimic some of the observed patterns of glacial erosion and thereby help deduce the key controls on the processes that govern large-scale landscape evolution beneath ice sheets. Copyright (C) 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-418
Number of pages11
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2011


  • GIS filtering
  • glacial erosion
  • relief development
  • northern Scandinavia


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