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The potential lateral growth of lithalsas

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Albert Pissart*
Department of Geography, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
Fabrice Calmels
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada
Cécile Wastiaux
Department of Geography, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
Corresponding author at: 29, rue Lavaux, 4130 Esneux, Belgium.


The lithalsas in the Hudson Bay region of northern Québec, Canada, are the closest modern analogs of ancient features that collapsed to form conspicuous circular depressions (“viviers”) common in the Hautes-Fagnes, a region in Belgium. Observations made in both regions are complementary and suggest that these mounds formed by frost heaving displacing soil not only upward, as previously assumed, but also laterally. This lateral displacement is consistent with diverse observations and inferences, which include (1) the simple rounded outline, either circular or oval, typical of both active and relic lithalsas; (2) evidence of local lateral extension inferred from exposures of the relic forms; (3) the relative inefficiency of solifluction in accumulating surface material to form the peripheral ramparts of remnant lithalsas due to the very gentle slopes of the mounds; and (4) the dip of ice lenses within a lithalsa in the Hudson Bay region, perhaps indicating that the freezing front dipped outward along its periphery. The growth of segregation ice is the primary driver for the vertical growth and lateral enlargement of a lithalsa.

Research Article
University of Washington

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