Greenland Geology

Greenland Geology and Morphology

As a whole, the soil of Greenland is made up of a block of crystalline rocks (gneiss and granite), bordered by sedimentary deposits and volcanic expansions. The first is what remains of a very ancient (Huronian) relief, corrugated in the pre-torpedo age and affected by the Caledonian folding only in a narrow marginal area (to N.), which represents one of the pylons of the bridge that once connected the North American archipelago to Scandinavia. The marine transgressions, which began already in the Paleozoic era, did not go beyond the edges of the penepian, accumulating, between the end of the Mesozoic and the beginning of the Tertiary, those bands of deposits that come to light on both major sides of the island, where they appear to be surmounted. or accompanied by basaltic flows, also from the Cenozoic period. Of these, the most extensive occur at approximately 70 ° N., probably forming a continuous depression from W to E., which would thus divide the granite-gneissic mass of the basement in two. During the Tertiary, Greenland enjoyed a warm climate, attested by numerous fossil plants of a tropical type, until the great Pleistocene glaciation, submerging almost the whole territory (only some higher marginal strips could escape it), determined those environmental conditions the effects of which still continue. On the contrary, it can be said that, apart from the different power of the snowpack and the slow oscillations of the sea level, very little, in substance, has changed since then, regardless of the appearance and activity of man.

According to Localcollegeexplorer, above six sevenths of approximately the entire surface, a continuous and massive (up to 1200 m.) Blanket of ice extends, from which some isolated ridges emerge along the margins (nunatak, pl. Nunatakker) that betray the underlying relief. As far as we know, this blanket (inlandsis) has a gently convex shape, with an asymmetrical profile, however, as the top of the arch is closer to the east coast, where, as the relief grows, it is also the feeding area. The slopes, barely hinted at in the interior of the vast frozen surface, are accentuated along the edges, i.e. in the ablation area, consisting of a selvedge of variable width (up to 150 km.), Where the topography becomes more rugged and even harsh.. Moreover, the internal surface itself is far from assuming an ideally flat course: the profile of the convexity from N. to S. is serrated by wide depressions, which isolate a mass high above 3000 m from N. (at a latitude of about 75 °), in the center (just to the South. of the 70 °) another large area certainly higher than 2500, and one no less high to the South. (65 ° N.),

The surface itself is then made locally varied by the accumulation of fresh snow, caused by the winds, and by the incision of even deep furrows, crossed in summer by real river currents, which stagnate in temporary pools and lakes, or are lost among the ice crevices. Towards the N. the inlandsis ends with elevated walls and precipitates; along the major sides of the island and to S. it is divided into a large number of glacial currents (iceström), which descend rapidly through the valleys to the sea, where the fronts fragment into icebergs, especially in correspondence with the middle part of the west coast.

With all this, the landscape is monotonous over a very large surface; on the other hand, it is relatively varied on the ice-free coastal fringe (296,900 sq km, of which 44,800 are islands), somewhere just under 200 km wide, interposed between the edge of the cap itself and the sea. There are areas affected by glacial erosion, which present themselves with high flat surfaces, or with weak undulation, crisscrossed by lacustrine cavities and engraved by deep valleys, and by fjords. The latter open wider and flared in correspondence to the less resistant and compact sedimentary assizes, usually assuming the typical typed shapes where the hard crystalline base prevails. Elsewhere the landscape appears to be characterized above all by the frequency of moraine systems, although this type is limited, it can be said, to rather narrow regions, not far from the southern cusp of the island. Much more imposing and grandiose is the scenario, where, as in the E. and W., high and impervious mountain barriers interpose between the coast and the edge of the inlandsis, recalling, for the daringness of the peaks and the topography of the slopes, the alpine world, from which they differ however in having remained, even in the Pleistocene era, at least partially free of ice. These morphological varieties are complicated by the intervention of climatic factors and vegetation, so that one passes, along the coastal contour, through strips each having its own characteristics so clear and up to a certain point, contrasting, that it is also legitimate to speak here of natural regions. Thus, for example, to the two basalt belts, which form the median part of the western coasts (from 69 ° to 73 ° N. approximately) and eastern (from 68 ° to 75 ° N.), where a typical morphology predominates with shelves and terraces, engraved by wide and steep fjords, contrasts, with S. (southern Greenland), inlandsis which overlooks the sea. While then in the extreme southern cusp, due to the lower rigidity of the climate, conditions more suitable for human life meet, at the very opposite extreme vast depressions and wide valley furrows alternate with chains of alpine color, rising from 1000 to 2000 m. on the planes that surround them, and the terrestrial fringes free from the ice cover over an extended surface of a relatively rich vegetal mantle, which allows equal intensity of development to the animal life.

Greenland Geology