Publication : Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

Publication de l’article sur l’origine des vallées tunnel

Does porewater or meltwater control tunnel valley genesis? Case studies from the Hirnantian of Morocco

ravier et al 2015 pal pal pal


  • •We compared processes involved in the formation of two Upper Ordovician tunnel valleys.
  • •Models of tunnel valley formation are driven by porewater pressures or meltwater flows.
  • •The distribution of ice streams controls tunnel valley formations and morphologies

Abstract :

Several Ordovician tunnel valleys are exposed in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas Mountains, including the Alnif and the Foum Larjamme tunnel valleys, located 150 km away from each other. Sedimentological and deformational analyses of these two glacial troughs reveal that differing processes lead to their formations.

The Alnif tunnel valley contains numerous deformation structures within sediments both below and above the main glacial erosion contact surface. Ball-structures and clastic dykes occur within preglacial sediments down to 35 m below glacial incisions while overlying glacial sediments contain fluted surfaces, clastic dykes, dewatering structures, folds and radial step normal faults. The characteristics of the Alnif tunnel valley can be explained by a porewater pressure-driven model of formation where the localized increase of basal shear stress and porewater pressure underneath subglacial deforming zones lead to the development of a dense hydrofracture network in the preglacial bed. These processes of hydraulic brecciation promoted subglacial remobilization of the preglacial material and contributed to the formation of the tunnel valley.

The Foum Larjamme tunnel valley displays undisturbed preglacial sediments and few dewatering structures at the base of the glacial sedimentary infill which suggests relatively low porewater pressures within the tunnel valley during formation. This second type of tunnel valley where porewater pressure remained relatively low appears to have been formed by meltwater erosion. The undulating base of the Foum Larjamme tunnel valley implies progressive erosion by a stable subglacial braided network of Nye-channels, or alternatively by channels migrating laterally during episodic minor subglacial outbursts.

These two tunnel valleys highlight the regional variability of processes involved in the formation of tunnel valleys. The distribution of palaeo-ice streams in North Africa illustrate that morphologies and processes involved in the formation of tunnel valleys vary between ice stream and inter-ice stream zones due to variations in meltwater availability, the topography and bed lithological properties.

Publication: Sedimentology

Sortie du papier portant sur les critères de différenciation entre le dépôts sous-glaciaires et les dépôts proglaciaires.

article sedimentology

Ravier, E., Buoncristiani, JF., Clerc, S., Guiraud, M., Menzies, J., Portier, E. (2014), Sedimentological and deformational criteria for discriminating subglaciofluvial deposits from subaqueous ice-contact fan deposits: A Pleistocene example (Ireland). Sedimentology. doi: 10.1111/sed.12111



Publication :

Notre dernier papier sur la glaciation Ordovicien est en ligne

Subglacial to proglacial depositional environments in an Ordovician glacial tunnel valley, Alnif, Morocco

  • a Laboratoire Biogeosciences UMR/CNRS 6282 Université de Bourgogne, 6 Bd Gabriel, 21000 DIJON, France
  • b GDF Suez EPI, 1 place Samuel de Champlain – Faubourg de l’Arche 92930 Paris La Défense Cedex – France


This paper presents the sedimentary analysis of an exceptional Ordovician glacial tunnel valley in the eastern part of the Anti-Atlas. The valley infill comprises two major glacial erosion surfaces (striated pavements) each overlain by a fining-upward glacial unit. These units are composed of five distinct facies associations, recording the evolution from subglacial to proglacial environments, and an additional sixth facies association, overtopping the tunnel valley infill, and associated with post-glacial environments. The tunnel valley infill also records a transitional environment between the subglacial and proglacial settings, which is compared with the Antarctic ice-sheet margin. These three environments are defined by the position of the grounding line and the coupling line. The new proposed depositional model also differs from usual Ordovician depositional models in which the main tunnel valley infill is interpreted as essentially proglacial outwash deposits, in a range of glaciomarine to glaciofluvial environments. Overall, a substantial part of the valley infill (~ 50% of volume) was deposited in a subglacial setting. The sedimentary bodies could form potentially thick and laterally extended, although these were limited by the shape and extent of the subglacial accommodation space. Finally, the sedimentary record, when compared with regional analogues, also provides information for the palaeogeographic reconstruction of the Ordovician ice-sheet in this region.


► An Ordovician tunnel valley infill is described in detail ► Subglacial and proglacial depositional environments are determined ► An additional environment is proposed associated with a lightly grounded ice-sheet ► Accommodation space is defined for proglacial and subglacial settings ► The study provides additional data for Hirnantian ice-sheet reconstruction