The aim of the paper is to analyse landscapes of glacial erosion associated with the Laurentide ice sheet at its maximum and to relate them lo the three main variables affecting glacial erosion, namely former basal thermal regime of the ice sheet, the topography of the bed, and the geology of the bed. The key to the analysis is the comparison of the distribution of landscape types with the simulated pattern of the basal thermal regime of the former ice sheet.
Landscapes of areal scouring are found to be associated with zones of basal melting and occur beneath much of the former ice-sheet centre and in those places where the topography favoured converging ice flow. The landscape type may also have formed beneath cold-based ice when it was carrying debris inherited from an up-stream zone of regelation. Areas with little or no sign of glacial erosion occur primarily in the north in the Queen Elizabeth Islands but they also occur on uplands associated with diverging ice flow; they coincide with areas calculated to have been covered by cold-based ice devoid of debris. Landscapes of selective linear erosion are common on uplands near the eastern periphery of the ice sheet. In these situations, pre-existing valleys channelled ice flow and created a situation where there was warm-based ice over the valleys and cold-based protective ice over the intervening plateaux. Variations in the permeability of the bedrock base have modified the landscape pattern, mainly in those areas where there was a change from one basal thermal regime to another. In general, permeable rocks tend to have experienced less erosion than impermeable rocks.
Using lake-basin density as an indication of the intensity of glacial erosion, a zone of maximum erosion is identified and this forms a ring between the centre of the former ice sheet and its periphery. This ring coincides with a zone where melt water from the ice-sheet centre is calculated to have frozen on to the bottom of the ice sheet. This regelation incorporated basal debris into the ice, forming a basal layer 20-50 m thick and afforded an efficient means of debris evacuation.
A conceptual model is developed and hangs round the following postulates:
(1)Landscapes of glacial erosion are related primarily to the basal thermal regime of the ice sheet.
(2)Landscapes of glacial erosion are equilibrium forms related to maximum glacial conditions. This implies that at some stage in the Pleistocene the Laurentide ice sheet was in a stable maximum condition for a long period of time.
(3)Mechanisms allowing evacuation of debris rather than those of abrasion or fracture may be the most important in influencing the amount of erosion achieved by an ice sheet.
(4)Cold-based ice may accomplish erosion if it contains debris.