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What processes and factors give cold environments their distinctive
characteristics?

Characteristics in cold environments result of climatic & geomorphological processes.

The conditions of cold environments
Three sub-divisions of cold environments...

1. GLACIAL(or polar)
Glacial environments contain snow/ice all year round. Polar climates are
very cold and relatively dry.
Antarctic temperatures…

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Most upland areas PERIGLACIAL, but not always!

Alps & Himalayas are so high that they contain glaciers and ice caps.

Mountainous areas are:

Cool-loss of about 1C for every 100m.
Wet-relief/orographic rainfall (air forced to rise over high
ground-cools, condensation occurs and precipitation is produced).

Processes in glacial environments

Glaciers-`rivers…

Page 3

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weaknesses in upper parts/underlying rock.
Freeze-thaw expands and contracts joints.
Chemical weathering below
CHEMICAL WEATHERING glaciers-important-carbonate rocks
(limestones). CO2 is soluble at low
temperatures, hence meltwater streams
have capacity to hold CO2-streams become
more acidic and they are able to weather
carbonate rocks more effectively.

NB: Amount/rate of glacial erosion…

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certain minerals absorb water, expand and
change. Mechanical stresses occur as well.

Other processes-FLUVIAL effective because of the...
Regime of the rivers (snowmelt)
The highly weathered nature of the bedrock and the nature of surface
(unconsolidated sands and gravels)
Wind action-lack of trees and disturbed nature of the ground.
Cambering…

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Very few species involved-70/8600 bird species breed in the Arctic and only
23/3200 mammals in the Arctic.
Large numbers of single species-caribou, lemmings.
Population numbers-cyclical-lemmings have a 3-7 year cycle




Soils
Periglacial environments-strongly affected by permafrost. Permafrost and low
temperatures are dominant factors in soil formation.
Bacterial activity-low and waterlogging…

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Disturbance of permafrost-claimed to lead to irreversible changes.
Fragile tundra relies on the few species present-decline of one species will impact
on the other species. Not only are there few species but population densities are
low. Easy for native people to exterminate species over large areas.
Distinction between fragility and…

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Conflict-native herders and other land users. The Sami (reindeer herders in
Sweden) say their traditional life is in jeopardy due to owners of private forests,
using the law to exclude them from woodland.
Energy/mineral extraction-Permafrost presents many problems to engineers.
Frozen ground has great strength and when it is thawed,…

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