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What is Solifluction?

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When Water logs, Soil Flows, and this mechanism is what we call Solifluction. That said, Solifluction is a term used for the slow downhill flow of soil in regions of the Arctic Ocean. It takes place slowly and is computed in millimeters or centimeters per year. It approximately uniformly affects the entire thickness of the soil instead of amassing in certain areas. It totally results from the waterlogging of sediment instead of short-lived events of saturation from storm runoff.

When Does Solifluction Take Place?

Solifluction occurs during the summer season thaw when the water in the soil is trapped by frozen permafrost underneath it. This waterlogged alluvium moves down slope by gravity, supported along by freeze-and-defrost cycles that thrust the top of the soil outward from the slope (a process of frost heave).

How to Determine Solifluction?

The major indication considered by geologists for solifluction in the landscape is hillsides that possess lobe-shaped slumps, same as small, thin earthflows. Other signs of identifying solifluction include patterned ground, signs of order in the stones and soils of alpine landscapes.

How Does a Landscape Affected By Solifluction Looks?

What is solifluction must now be clear to you. But do you know how a landscape affected by solifluction looks? It looks the same as the bumpy ground yielded by substantial landsliding but appears more like fluid, like melted ice cream or molten/diluted cake frosting. The indications may subsist long after arctic atmospheric circumstances have changed, as in subarctic regions that were once glaciated in the Pleistocene ice ages. Solifluction is regarded as a periglacial process, as it only needs chronic freezing conditions instead of the permanent presence of ice bodies.

Is there a Difference Between Solifluction and Soil Creep?

Solifluction in geology is one of the forms of creep that happens either in high altitudes or in cold climates where the mass of the saturated rock waste comes down the slope.

Soil creep means the movement of the slow downslope of the superficial rocks. It is an ongoing process and also a surface phenomenon taking place on the slopes.

Changes in Solifluction Movement Rates

Various Research activities carried out at the site depleted substantially in recent years, because of the personnel changes. Besides this site, little is known about recent solifluction movement rates in other regions of the Austrian Alps. In addition, nothing is familiar about regional similarities or differences with respect to solifluction rates and respective drivers in Austria, since solifluction measurements have not been conducted earlier on at several sites distributed over a massive area at the same time.

Studied Landforms

All studied solifluction lobes were situated in the central part of the Hohe Tauern mountain, central Austria, in a 38 km (west–east) by 11 km (north–south) large-scale region.

Solifluction monitoring was carried out at five sites namely: Elisabeth Felsen (ELF), Fallbichl (FAB), north-east facing slope at the Hinteres Langtal cirque (HNE), See Schartl (SES), a south-west facing slope at the Hinteres Langtal cirque (HSW) and the selection of the 5 solifluction lobes was based on the following parameter:

  • Area-wise distribution of the studied solifluction landforms and thus, to a certain degree, a region-wide reflection of the central part of the Hohe Tauern mountain range.

  • the morphological proof that solifluction acted upon these slopes a minimum few times in the past

  • the plausibility during fieldwork to apply synergies with the permafrost and periglacial monitoring network set up at nine sites in the Niedere Tauern and Hohe Tauern mountain ranges

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Whole Process of Solifluction?

Answer: Solifluction is an extensive phenomenon in the alpine and subalpine ecotones of high mountain regions as well as in polar and subpolar places. Solifluction is a unique kind of periglacial mass wasting in both permafrost and non-permafrost settings. The term solifluction was introduced over 100 years ago basically for normal ‘soil flow’, in the Bear Island and Falkland Islands. In contemporary scientific usage the term solifluction demonstrates combined slow mass wasting linked with freeze-thaw action including soil saturation taking place in periglacial environments.

2. How Do We Classify Solifluction?

Answer: Presently, solifluction is majorly classified as frost creep, needle-ice creep, plug-like flow and gelifluction (the movement of saturated soil linked with ground defrosting. Landforms caused by solifluction reflect both the thickness of frost-receptive soil and the depth predisposed to freeze-thaw action. Rates and mechanisms of solifluction are typically based on weather, temperature, geology, hydrology, sedimentology, topography, and vegetation. Understanding and forecasting the development and progression of periglacial landforms associated with solifluction need a quantitative link between the rate of solifluction and these variables.