permafrost periglacial spring russia.jpg
the painted desert arid.jpg

Glacial Environments

Explain the advance and retreat of glaciers and the main features resulting from the processes of erosion and deposition by glaciers.


Glacial Environments

Explain the advance and retreat of glaciers and the main features resulting from the processes of erosion and deposition by glaciers.

Europe's largest glacier, The Aletsch, in winter / Eastern Bernese Alps, Valais, Switzerland.


Inside a Glacier / BBC

glacial environment (n)

An area covered with snow and ice on a permanent/long-term basis, where glacial processes are operating. Can be on different scales including ice sheet, ice caps, glaciers.

landform (n)

a natural feature of the earth's surface


ice sheets, ice caps and glaciers

  1. How are ice sheets, ice caps and glaciers different?
  2. Research these terms and add information to your notes.




  1. Read the text above and annotate the pdf with information about glacial systems



Why does climate change?

Glaciers advance when inputs exceed outputs, when there is more accumulation of snow in the winter than melting of snow in the summer.

But what are the historic reasons for changing climates? What causes warmer and colder years? Human-induced climate change plays an important role in the current warming period, but natural, astronomical factors are also responsible for historic changes in climate.

Read the excerpt from "Africa: A Biography of the Continent" by John Reader and make notes on the three astronomical causes of climate change.



processes and landforms of glacial environments


GLACIAL erosion

Plucking and Abrasion

Plucking and Abrasion

  1. Name, describe and illustrate two processes of glacial erosion

landforms of erosion



  1. Name, describe and illustrate two forms of glacial erosion above
  2. Download book "Glacial Landforms and the Ice Age"
  3. Read pp 420 + 424
  4. Make detailed notes on glacial processes and landforms
  5. Name, describe and explain each landform of erosion

landforms of deposition


landforms presentation

  1. In groups, create a presentation describing and explaining glacial landforms of erosion and deposition.
permafrost periglacial spring russia.jpg

Periglacial Environments

Explain permafrost, patterned ground, solifluction, thermokarst, pingos.

Periglacial Environments

Explain permafrost, patterned ground, solifluction, thermokarst, pingos.


explain (v)

  1. give a detailed account including reasons or causes.


hummock (n)

  1. A hummock is a small hill or mound above ground. They are typically less than 15 meters in height and tend to appear in groups or fields. 

periglacial (adj)

  1. relating to or denoting an area adjacent to a glacier or ice sheet or otherwise subject to repeated freezing and thawing.

regolith (n)

  1. Regolith is a layer of loose, heterogeneous superficial material covering solid rock. It includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, Mars, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons.


Permafrost is ground that remains continuously at or below 0 degrees Celsius for at least two consecutive years.

Global distribution of permafrost



Patterned ground is the distinct, and often symmetrical geometric shapes formed by ground material in periglacial regions. Typically found in remote regions of the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Australian outback, but also found anywhere that freezing and thawing of soil alternate; patterned ground has also been observed on Mars.



Partially melted and collapsed lithalsas (heaved mounds found in permafrost) have left circle-like structures on the Svalbard Archipelago (Wikipedia)



Solifluction is the slow downslope movement of water-saturated sediment due to recurrent freezing and thawing of the ground, affected by gravity.  

It occurs in late summer, when the ice-rich layer at the bottom of the active layer thaws to form a plastic mud. Moving almost imperceptibly on the plastic layer, this saturated soil is deformed into solifluction terraces and solifluction lobes that give the tundra slope a stepped appearance

What happens when permafrost thaws?

Solifluction Lobes in the Swiss National Park, Graübunden.




Thermokarst is a land surface characterised by very irregular surfaces of marshy hollows and small hummocks formed as ice-rich permafrost thaws. Thermokarst occurs in Arctic areas, and on a smaller scale in mountainous areas such as the Himalayas and the Swiss Alps.

Thermokarst at Jackson Hole Valley, Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA



A pingo, also called a hydrolaccolith, is a mound of earth covered ice found in the Arctic and subar-ctic that can reach up to 70 m in height and up to 600 m in diameter. The term originated as the Inuvialuktun word for a small hill. The plural form is "pingos".

Pingo National Landmark, Canada



  1. Complete the following grid using information from above and p 85 of the study guide
the painted desert arid.jpg

physical characteristics of Hot, Arid Environments

Explain weathering and the processes involved in wind and water-formed features.

Explain the occurrence of flash floods.

physical characteristics of Hot, Arid Environments

Explain weathering and the processes involved in wind and water-formed features.

Explain the occurrence of flash floods.


weathering and erosion


weathering in deserts


  1. Compare and contrast the climatic characteristics (annual temperature and rainfall) of semi arid and arid areas
  2. Explain the following processes of weathering
    • salt crystallisation
    • disintegration 
    • exfoliation
  3. Why is moisture (water) important in these processes?
  4. What is regolith?


Wind performs two kinds of erosional work: abrasion and deflation.

Loose particles lying on the ground surface may be lifted into the air or rolled along the ground by wind action. In the process of wind abrasion, wind drives mineral particles against an exposed rock or soil surface, wearing down the surface.

The sandblasting action of wind abrasion is usually limited to the bottom meter or two of exposed rock above a flat plain. That’s because sand grains don’t rise much higher into the air. Wind abrasion produces pits, grooves, and hollows in the rock. You’ll often see that wooden utility poles on windswept plains have a protective metal sheathing or a heap of large stones placed around the base. Without this protection, they would quickly be cut through at the base.

Deflation is the removal of loose particles from the ground by wind. Deflation acts on loose soil or sedi- ment, and so dry river courses, beaches, and areas of recently formed glacial deposits are susceptible. In dry climates, much of the ground surface can be deflated because the soil or rock is largely bare of vegetation.

The finest particles, those of clay and silt sizes, are lifted and raised into the air—sometimes to a height of a thousand meters (about 3300 ft) or more. Sand grains are moved by moderately strong winds and usually travel within a meter or two (about 3 to 6 ft) of the ground. Gravel fragments and rounded pebbles can be rolled or pushed over flat ground by strong winds, but they don’t travel far. They become easily lodged in hollows or between other large particles. If there’s a mixture of particles of different sizes on the ground, deflation removes the finer sized particles and leaves the coarser particles behind. 




  1. Using the A3 writing frame, describe and explain the erosional processes of:
    • abrasion
    • deflation
  2. Draw a diagram to illustrate each process



Mesa - Butte - Plateau - Canyon - Wadi - Pediment - Yardang - Zeugen - Salt Pan - Inselberg


flash floods


Mystery - How did this happen?


drainage basins in hot arid areas

In order to understand how a flash flood like the one above can happen in hot, arid areas, we must first understand how drainage basins work.

Look at the diagram below. How would the drainage basin system and the processes responsible for transferring water be different in hot arid areas?

Flooding occurs when rainfall intensity exceeds infiltration capacity generating surface runoff/overland flow leading to flooding.

Causes of flooding in deserts:

  1. summer convection rainfall bringing high amounts of precipitation
  2. unvegetated desert surfaces reduce interception and infiltration, increasing overland flow
  3. high concentrations of water in wadis, gullies or channels
  4. presence of desert crusts (duricrusts) and other barriers to infiltration (rocks in desert pavement etc).

infiltration and surface runoff


infiltration runoff.jpeg


  1. Draw a labelled diagram to illustrate how flash floods happen in hot, arid environments.
  2. Use all of the information above to help you.

RIVERS in deserts


  1. Name and describe the three main types of river in desert environments
  2. Explain why rivers can have considerable discharges in arid environments.