Quaternary glaciation of the North Slope of Karakorum mountains
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Three kinds of moraines can be found in the Muztagh valley on the N slope of Mount K2, Karakorum: an old calco-cement moraine lying at the altitude of 5000 m asl, a hilly moraine lying at the altitude of 4200–4800 m asl and a new lateral moraine, lying on both sides of the present river valley. According to the moraines’ geomorphology, they are referred to the Middle Pleistocene Glaciation, the Late Pleistocene Glaciation and the Post-Glacial Period respectively.
The lowest level of glacial cirques at 4200–4000 m asl, corresponding to the largest Glaciation, belongs to the Middle Pleistocene (Riss). The ancient cirques at this altitude in the Shaksgam and Yargand valleys are poorly preserved while at the piedmont of the West Kunlun mountains they are represented in better shape. This means that these ancient cirques had been submerged and almost removed by the main ice flow of the valleys. Old cirques, however, are well shaped (or reshaped) where associated with younger cirques at 4600 m als; they could be considered as the product of the Last Glaciation (Würm). Thus, the equilibrium line altitude (ELA) decreased to 1600 m during the Riss Glaciation and to 1000 m during the Würm Glaciation.
On the basis of the ELA decrease and existence of complex morainic deposits found at the piedmont of the West Kunlun mountains at about 2200 m asl, the author adheres to the opinion that Riss Glaciation had developed an ice cover (ice sheet), with the central ice area located in Karakorum and reaching up to the high peaks of the Kunlun mountains, and down to the piedmont region. During the Last Glaciation an immense ice cap covered the upper parts of the Shaksgam and Yarkant valleys. The paper also deals with the relations between glaciations and tectonic uplift, indicating that topographic and climatic conditions were favourable for the large-scale ice development in the Middle and Late Pleistocene. The uplift may have reached 600–800 m during the Postglacial period. The uplift rates are often reflected by the glaciostatic in the Postglacial Age.
KeywordsPleistocene Late Pleistocene Tectonic Uplift Kunlun Mountain Lateral Moraine
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