The Cryoplanation Controversy in Geomorphic Literature

Authors: Kelsey Nyland*, Michigan State University
Topics: Cryosphere, Polar Regions, Geomorphology
Keywords: Periglacial geomorphology, cryoplanation, nivation, bibliometrics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cryoplanation terraces are large staircase-like landforms associated with mountainous periglacial (cold, but unglaciated) environments. The evolution of these landscape-scale features has been a contentious topic in periglacial geomorphology for more than a century. This situation is complicated by a diverse lexicon and by the large number of hypotheses posed over time. Terms for these features used in English-language literature have included cryoplanation, altiplanation, equiplanation, nivation, and Goletz. Proposed hypotheses include a modification of the Davisian cycle of erosion, a special phase of solifluction, complex sorting from mass-movement, surface and permafrost table lowering, and polygonal cracking. Contemporary literature favors two: geologic structure, and nivation (a climate-dependent suite of erosive processes associated with late-lying snowbanks). This review examines literature related to cryoplanation landscapes with attention to (1) its diverse lexicon; (2) the distribution of studies around the world; and (3) the chronology of the numerous and diverse formation theories proposed. Using bibliometric co-citation analysis of cryoplanation literature since 1970, available through Scopus (the Elsevier publishing company citation database), the contemporary trajectory of the topic was also examined. Analysis of co-citation network modularity in the cryoplanation corpus was used to determine if there are “gate-keeping” publications that impede the forward momentum of research on this topic. Results help to explain why cryoplanation terraces and associated processes remain a geomorphic enigma.

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