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Aaron Wyld (2020)

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Mr Aaron Wyld (University of Sheffield) has won the 2020 Marjorie Sweeting Dissertation Award for his dissertation titled “The hypsometry of glaciated mountain ranges with varying uplift- and erosion-rates and its influence on their geomorphic evolution”.

Abstract: The hypsometry (area-elevation frequency distribution) of mountain ranges is a reflection of the tectonic and denudational processes in a region. It has been argued that glaciated mountain ranges are dominated by a glacial erosion mechanism termed the ‘glacial buzzsaw’, and that this is the primary control on the hypsometry of such regions due to its capacity to far exceed even the highest uplift rates. Subsequently, the geomorphic evolution of a glaciated mountain range may be dependent on the activity of ‘glacial buzzsaw’ denudation. Through the use of hypsometric analysis techniques (hypsometric curves and integrals), this study investigates the hypsometry of tectonically active, glaciated mountain ranges with varying erosion- and uplift-rates to establish how erosion and uplift influence the hypsometric distributions in each case, and whether this is reflected by the topography in its current stage of geomorphic evolution. ‘Glacial buzzsaw’ denudation is assessed through determining its ability of limiting topographic growth above the modern equilibrium-line altitude. The results indicate that despite the variation between erosion- and uplift-rates in the study sites, there is not a clear difference in the hypsometry of tectonically active, glaciated mountain ranges. The inferred stage of geomorphic evolution of each site supports the similarity in the hypsometry between the Aoraki/Mount Cook Range (New Zealand) and the Northwestern Alps (Europe), despite the implied relation between erosion and uplift in the regions. Uplift is found to play a greater role in contributing to mountain range hypsometry, particularly at lower elevations, and is substantiated by regions that have high uplift rates (>4 mm/yr) such as the Khumbu Range (Higher Himalaya), causing a differing erosional response.

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