Geology: Fjord focus

    Nature Geosci. doi 10.1038/ngeo201 (2008)

    Credit: G. WILTSIE/NATL GEOGRAPHIC

    The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy ascribes the pleasing depth and drama of Earth's fjords to an alien planetary engineer named Slartibartfast. A model produced by Mark Kessler at the University of Colorado in Boulder and his colleagues captures a more plausible sculptural process involving only ice and mountain ranges. The researchers show that a tendency for ice to flow through existing mountain passes deepens these passes, reinforcing the original tendency. This feedback can lead to the carving of kilometre-deep fjords in a million years.

    Their model also suggests that once a landscape is equipped with fjords its ice caps will be smaller and more sensitive to climate change, as it is easier for the ice to get away.

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    Geology: Fjord focus. Nature 453, 430 (2008) doi:10.1038/453430a

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