Applying GIS Metrics to Determine Degree of Glacial Modification in Mountainous Landscapes

Carl Delbert Swanson II
May 2012


The ability to quantitatively assess the degree of glaciation in mountainous areas can be a powerful tool in unraveling the evolution of landscapes, and provide key insights in regions where field research is difficult. Here we determine, test, and apply metrics that assess the relative degree of past glacial modification in mountainous landscapes. Results show that slope results can be used to quantitatively assess the degree to which an area is modified by glaciation. In particular, analysis of basins using slope frequency distribution curves and slope vs. elevation plots capture steeper slopes, flatter valley bottoms, cirques, and arêtes of glaciated landscapes, and can be used to determine the relative impact of glacial vs. fluvial erosion on the development of the basin landscape.

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