Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2016, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (3): 177-186.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2016.00177

• REVIEW •    

Identification, characteristics and classification of cryogenic block streams

Stuart A. Harris   

  1. Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Canada T2 N1 N4
  • Received:2016-03-10 Revised:2016-05-11 Published:2018-11-23
  • Contact: Stuart A.Harris,Faculty Professor,Department of Geography,University of Calgary,Canada T2N
  • Supported by:
    The author wishes to acknowledge the hospitality and logistical help provided by the former Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology and subsequently by the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Lanzhou,as well as the support and encouragement of the late Academician YaFeng Shi,Academician GuoDong Cheng,and Professor HuiJun Jin.The National Research Council of Canada provided operational grants that helped with the field work in both Canada and China.

Abstract: Cryogenic block streams consist of a stream of rocks superficially resembling a stream deposit but lacking a matrix,usually occurring on a valley or gully floor or on slopes that are less steep than the maximum angle of repose of coarse sediments.They are usually formed on perennially frozen ground,but can also occur as relict landforms.There are three main active kinds forming today,viz.,Siberian and Tibetan dynamic rock streams and lag block streams.During their formation,the blocks in the active Siberian and Tibetan dynamic block streams move downslope at up to 1 m/a.They are forming today on the Tibetan Plateau and in the more arid parts of south-central Siberia,although the processes involved in the movement are different.In the case of the Tibetan type,individual blocks slide downslope over the substrate in winter on an icy coating in areas of minimal winter precipitation.The Siberian type develops in areas of 15-80 cm of winter snow cover and an MAAT (mean annual air temperature) of -4℃ to -17℃.The movement is due to creep of snow and ice and collapse of the blocks downslope during thawing.Lag block streams are formed by meltwater flowing over the surface of sediment consisting primarily of larger blocks with a limited amount of interstitial sediment.The erosion of the matrix is primarily in the spring in areas of higher winter precipitation on 10°-30° slopes.The blocks remain stationary,but the interstitial sediment is washed out by strong seasonal flows of meltwater or rain to form an alluvial fan.The boulders undergo weathering and become more rounded in the process.Lag block streams can also develop without the presence of permafrost in areas with cold climates or glaciers.Block streams also occur as relict deposits in older deposits under various climatic regimes that are unsuitable for their formation today.An example of relict lag block streams with subangular to subrounded blocks occurs in gullies on the forested mountainsides at Felsen in Germany,and is the original "felsenmeer".Similar examples occur near Vitosha Mountain in Bulgaria.The"stone runs"in the Falkland Islands are examples of the more angular relict lag block streams.In both Tasmania and the Falkland Islands,they mask a more complex history,the underlying soils indicating periods of tropical and temperate soil formation resulting from weathering during and since the Tertiary Period.Block streams have also been reported from beneath cold-based glaciers in Sweden,and below till in Canada,and when exhumed,can continue to develop.

Key words: active dynamic block streams, felsemeer, relict block steams, Tibetan type block streams, Siberian type block streams, lag block streams

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