Subglacial emplacement of tills and meltwater deposits at the base of overdeepened bedrock troughs

Buechi, Marius W.; Frank, Stephan M.; Graf, Hans Rudolf; Menzies, John; Anselmetti, Flavio (2017). Subglacial emplacement of tills and meltwater deposits at the base of overdeepened bedrock troughs. Sedimentology, 64(3), pp. 658-685. Blackwell Science 10.1111/sed.12319

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The sedimentary infill of subglacially eroded bedrock troughs in the Alps are underexplored archives for the timing, extent and character of Pleistocene glaciations but may contain excellent records of the Quaternary landscape evolution over several glacial-interglacial cycles. The onset of sedimentation in these bedrock troughs is often reflected by diamicts and gravels directly overlying bedrock in the deepest basin segments. Subglacial or proglacial depositional environments have been proposed for these coarse-grained basal units but their characteristics and origin remain controversial. This article presents results from drill cores that recovered a coarse-grained basal unit in a major buried bedrock-trough system in the Lower Glatt Valley, northern Switzerland. The excellent core recovery allowed a detailed study combining macroscopic, microscopic and geochemical methods and gives unprecedented insights into the transition from erosion to deposition in overdeepened bedrock troughs. These results show that the basal infill comprises diamicts, interpreted as subglacial tills, separated by thin sorted interbeds, originating from subglacial cavity deposition. The stacking may thus represent repeated switching between a coupled and decoupled ice-bed-interface indicating an ever-transforming mosaic of subglacial bed conditions. Decoupling in response to high basal water pressures is probably promoted by the confined subglacial hydraulic conditions resulting from the bedrock acting as aquitard, the narrow reverse sloping outlet and a large catchment area. While stratigraphic and lithological evidence suggests that erosion and the onset of basal sedimentation occurred during the same glaciation, different scenarios for the relative timing of infilling in relation to formation and glaciation of the bedrock trough are discussed. Overlying deltaic and glaciolacustrine sediments suggest deposition during subsequent deglaciation of the bedrock trough. The basal sediment characteristics are in agreement with previous reports in hydrogeological and seismic exploration and suggest the occurrence of similar basal successions in other subglacially overdeepened basin in the Alps and elsewhere.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Quaternary Geology

UniBE Contributor:

Büchi, Marius and Anselmetti, Flavio


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Blackwell Science




Marius Büchi

Date Deposited:

15 Nov 2016 16:24

Last Modified:

08 May 2017 15:07

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Alpine glaciation, ice-bed decoupling, microsedimentology, overdeepened subglacial basin, stratified subglacial till




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