Mass Movement Processes in the Periglacial Environment

S. Millar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

7 Scopus citations


Mass wasting is the gravity-driven downslope movement of surficial materials. In a perglacial environment the phase change of ice to water in the regolith contributes to the loss of the shear strength of slopes, resulting in slope failures at slope angles much lower than expected under nonfreezing conditions. Within a framework of slope stability analysis, this paper outlines the main factors influencing the shear strength of, and the shear stress exerted on, a slope to explain the unusual behavior of many slopes in a periglacial environment. These include ground-ice content, soil texture, vegetation cover, snow cover and duration, local topography, and frequency of the freeze-thaw cycle. A simple classification of common mass wasting processes is applied to examine slow movements such as creep and solifluction; and more rapid movements including rockfalls, snow avalanches, slushflows, retrogressive thaw slumps, and active layer detachment failures. Two important areas of research are the focus of recent contributions to the periglacial geomorphology literature. First, although historically important to periglacial studies, there has been a recent resurgence in the application of mass movement processes as criteria for reconstructing paleoenvironments. Developments and innovations discussed herein include analysis of soil and sediment characteristics, the use of ground penetrating radar (GPR), and dating of materials and surfaces using luminescence techniques and cosmogenic isotopes. Second, important contributions are emerging on the application of mass wasting deposits and landforms as tools to understand spatial and temporal patterns of recent global environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGlacial and Periglacial Geomorphology
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780080885223
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Active layer
  • Creep
  • Global environmental change
  • Ground ice
  • Paleoenvironments
  • Periglacial mass wasting
  • Permafrost
  • Rockfalls
  • Slope stability analysis
  • Slushflows
  • Solifluction
  • Thaw consolidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Mass Movement Processes in the Periglacial Environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this