Identification of erosional mechanisms during past glaciations based on a bedrock surface model of the central European Alps

Dürst Stucki, Mirjam; Schlunegger, Fritz (2013). Identification of erosional mechanisms during past glaciations based on a bedrock surface model of the central European Alps. Earth and planetary science letters, 384, pp. 57-70. Elsevier 10.1016/j.epsl.2013.10.009

[img] Text
Dürst_Schlunegger.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (6MB) | Request a copy

The bedrock topography beneath the Quaternary cover provides an important archive for the identification of erosional processes during past glaciations. Here, we combined stratigraphic investigations of more than 40,000 boreholes with published data to generate a bedrock topography model for the entire plateau north of the Swiss Alps including the valleys within the mountain belt. We compared the bedrock map with data about the pattern of the erosional resistance of Alpine rocks to identify the controls of the lithologic architecture on the location of overdeepenings. We additionally used the bedrock topography map as a basis to calculate the erosional potential of the Alpine glaciers, which was related to the thickness of the LGM ice. We used these calculations to interpret how glaciers, with support by subglacial meltwater under pressure, might have shaped the bedrock topography of the Alps. We found that the erosional resistance of the bedrock lithology mainly explains where overdeepenings in the Alpine valleys and the plateau occur. In particular, in the Alpine valleys, the locations of overdeepenings largely overlap with areas where the underlying bedrock has a low erosional resistance, or where it was shattered by faults. We also found that the assignment of two end-member scenarios of erosion, related to glacial abrasion/plucking in the Alpine valleys, and dissection by subglacial meltwater in the plateau, may be adequate to explain the pattern of overdeepenings in the Alpine realm. This most likely points to the topographic controls on glacial scouring. In the Alps, the flow of LGM and previous glaciers were constrained by valley flanks, while ice flow was mostly divergent on the plateau where valley borders are absent. We suggest that these differences in landscape conditioning might have contributed to the contrasts in the formation of overdeepenings in the Alpine valleys and the plateau.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Dürst Stucki, Mirjam and Schlunegger, Fritz


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
500 Science








Fritz Schlunegger

Date Deposited:

11 Aug 2014 08:42

Last Modified:

06 Oct 2015 11:29

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

bedrock topographic map of central European Alps, glacial erosion, subglacial meltwater erosion, lithology control on formation of overdeepenings




Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback