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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: June 2016

8 - Glacial and periglacial geomorphology



The glacial and periglacial record of southern Africa during the Quaternary is limited to the highest-altitude areas of the Drakensberg and Cape Fold Belt, where late Pleistocene temperature depression in addition to uncertain changes in precipitation regime were sufficient in combination to develop small cirque glaciers and/or a range of periglacial features. This chapter reflects on past debates for and against Quaternary glaciations, and identifies research gaps in these debates. Geomorphological and sedimentary evidence for glacial and periglacial landforms is summarised in this chapter, and the climatic and environmental contexts in which they developed, where known, are explained. There remain significant gaps in our understanding of cold Quaternary events in high mountain areas of southern Africa, mainly due to an absence of reliable palaeoclimatic indicators, the sometimes inconclusive climatic signatures offered by periglacial landforms, and poor dating control. The Drakensberg and Cape Fold Belt still experience marginal periglacial climate conditions today, but are currently undergoing change due to both regional climate change and human-induced landscape alterations, thus future periglacial activity is likely to become further constrained in location and vigour.

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