Geographia Polonica (1992) vol. 60

Periglacial structures in Svalbard as indicators of a Central European climate in the last glaciation

Alfred Jahn

Geographia Polonica (1992) vol. 60, pp. 79-101 | Full text


Contrary to widely held opinions, the archipelago of the Svalbard Islands does not belong to the oceanic part of the periglacial zone but has its own diversified climate being humid-maritime on the coast and dry-continental in the interior. These differences in the periglacial enviroments manifest themselves in contrasting structures of the active layer. The periglacial zone of the last glaciation in Europe was characterized by a climatic gradient more oceanic in the west and more continental in the east of Europe. The transitional section of this zone lay in its narrowest part, between the Scandinavian ice border and the northern timber line, delimited approximately by the arch of the Alps and Carpathian Mountains. In this part periglacial structures are abundant and, what is more variable in vertical profile.This evidence reflects great variations in the glaciation period, of changes of the oceanic and continental phases. There are at least 4 frost wedge horizons, often of "sand wedge" type, that are indicators of a continental climate. The Svalbard archipelago where oceanic as well as continental facies of periglacial structures can be found at present provides a good representation of the spatial diversity of periglacial phenomena which occurred at different times in Central Europe.

Alfred Jahn, Geographical Institute, University of Wrocław, Wrocław Poland