Where and Why Do Retrogressive Thaw Slumps Occur?

justine.ramage [ at ] awi.de


Retrogressive thaw slumps (RTSs) are among the most active landforms in the Arctic; their number has increased tremendously over the past decades. While processes initiating discrete RTSs are well defined, little research has been done on a regional scale to reveal the major terrain controls on their development. Our research provides new insights into the dynamics of coastal RTSs. We reveal the main geomorphic factors determining the development of RTSs along a 238 km coastal segment of the Yukon Coastal Plain, Canada. We 1) show the current extent of RTSs, 2) ascertain the factors controlling their activity and initiation, and 3) explain the differences in density and coverage of RTSs. We mapped and classified the RTSs based on high-resolution satellite images acquired in 2011. We derived the terrain characteristics for each RTS and highlighted the main terrain controls over their development using univariate regression trees. We tested the response variables (RTSs activity, initiation, density and coverage) against 16 environmental variables. We detected 287 coastal RTSs in the study area. Both the activity and the initiation of the RTSs were influenced by coastal geomorphology: active RTSs and new RTSs occurred primarily on terrain with slope angles greater than 3.9° and 5.9°, respectively. The density and coverage of RTSs within each coastal segment were constrained by the volume and thickness of massive ice bodies. Coastal erosion appears to have only an indirect effect on the development of RTSs by maintaining the best conditions for RTSs to reactivate.

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ArcticNet, 05 Dec 2016 - 09 Dec 2016.
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Ramage, J. , Irrgang, A. , Morgenstern, A. , Herzschuh, U. , Couture, N. J. and Lantuit, H. (2016): Where and Why Do Retrogressive Thaw Slumps Occur? , ArcticNet, 5 December 2016 - 9 December 2016 .

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