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Quaternary Moraines vs Catastrophic Rock Avalanches in the Karakoram Himalaya, Northern Pakistan

  • Kenneth Hewitt (a1)

A history and conception of glacial events for the central Karakoram Himalaya, proposed some 80 years ago by Giotto Dainelli, are largely accepted today. However, certain deposits identified as terminal moraine complexes marking glacial episodes were actually emplaced by rock avalanches. In the Skardu and Shigar intermontane basins of Baltistan, at least 15 rock avalanche events were previously mapped as moraine or till. Criteria used for distinguishing these catastrophic landslide deposits emphasize homogeneous lithology of rubble and matrix, clast shape, facies characteristics, the large scale unity of emplacement, and morphological relations to valley topography. The deposits of three events, at Katzarah, Satpura, and the north end of Shigar Valley, have been reconstructed in detail. Thick supraglacial debris does not result in similar deposits. Extensive valley fills, river terraces, large sediment fans, and lacustrine sediments formerly attributed to late-glacial conditions are reinterpreted as postglacial events involving rock avalanches that interrupted fluvial development. Existing reconstructions of glaciations are left in doubt, especially late-glacial events in the central Karakoram, as are the roles assigned to Karakoram, main Indus Valley, and western Himalayan ice.

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Quaternary Research
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