Pleistocene plateau ice fields in the High Atlas, Morocco

P.D. Hughes, George Hannah, P.L. Gibbard

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Large ice fields (>25 km2) formed over the Tazaghart and Iouzagner plateaux of the High Atlas, Morocco, during the Late Pleistocene. The plateau ice fields were drained by large valley glaciers forming a series of moraine assemblages. Four moraine units have been mapped and subdivided on the basis of morphostratigraphy and the degree of soil weathering. Soil profile development index (PDI) values indicate that the moraine units are widely separated in time with the oldest moraines deeply weathered and degraded whereas soils are absent on the youngest moraines. The highest moraine unit was formed by a small niche glacier which was present as recently as the mid 20th Century. Pleistocene glaciers are likely to have been associated with wetter conditions than today in addition to colder air temperatures. Combined with ice in neighbouring areas, such as the Toubkal Massif, the SW High Atlas supported some of the largest glaciers in Africa during the Pleistocene. The extent of glaciation with ice exploiting and breaching drainage divides has major implications for landscape development. The evolution of the High Atlas is therefore strongly shaped by glaciation and this is closely intertwined with tectonic, fluvial and slope processes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQuaternary glaciation in the Mediterranean Mountains
EditorsP.D. Hughes, J.C. Woodward
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherGeological Society
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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