Ice-marginal glaciated landscapes demarcate former boundaries of the continental ice sheets. Throughout circumpolar regions, permafrost has preserved relict ground ice and glacigenic sediments, delaying the sequence of postglacial landscape change that transformed temperate environments millennia earlier. Here we show that within 7 × 106 km2 of glaciated permafrost terrain, extensive landscapes remain poised for major climate-driven change. Across northwestern Canada, 60–100-km-wide concentric swaths of thaw slump–affected terrain delineate the maximum and recessional positions of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. These landscapes comprise ∼17% of continuous permafrost terrain in a 1.27 × 106 km2 study area, indicating widespread preservation of late Pleistocene ground ice. These thaw slump, relict ground ice, and glacigenic terrain associations are also evident at the circumpolar scale. Recent intensification of thaw slumping across northwestern Canada has mobilized primary glacial sediments, triggering a cascade of fluvial, lacustrine, and coastal effects. These geologically significant processes, highlighted by the spatial distribution of thaw slumps and patterns of fluvial sediment mobilization, signal the climate-driven renewal of deglaciation and postglacial permafrost landscape evolution.
- Received 21 September 2016.
- Revision received 12 December 2016.
- Accepted 13 December 2016.
- ©The Authors
Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY license.