Quaternary heterogeneities

Chalk rafts

We understand the geological and geomorphological processes that happened during the Quaternary period, however, their spatial influence and the resulting features and properties are poorly mapped and understood. The Quaternary heterogeneities project aims to document the known (and modelled) distribution of non-uniform geological properties produced by Quaternary processes. The new dataset will create a range of regional- to national-scale datasets that will highlight the known distribution of Quaternary heterogeneities and identify zones of susceptibility where data is limited.

The dataset will consider a range of heterogeneities.

  • Deformed glacigenic terrains: zones of pre-existing terrain that have been deformed by the movement of glacier ice.
  • Patterned ground: ground that has been fractured by changes in temperature or layered due to re-sorting of stones.
  • Frost heave: ground that has swelled as a result of ice growing upwards from the freezing front towards the ground surface, creating features such as palsas and pingos.
  • Blockfields and frost-weathered bedrock: frost wedging of exposed bedrock surfaces leads to their mechanical disruption forming in situ frost-weathered bedrock and blockfields. Subsequent downslope movement under the influence of gravity develops boulder fields.
  • Periglacial slope deposits: the mass wasting of hillslope materials driven by freeze-thaw processes.
  • Buried valleys: ancient sub-aerial (river) or subglacial drainage networks that are now abandoned and have little or no surface expression in the landscape.
  • Buried peat: areas of partially decayed organic matter or histosols of a thickness liable to be compressible, which have been overlain by later sediments.
  • Running sand: loose, poorly consolidated, sand-sized particles lying concealed under younger, superficial deposits and prone to liquefaction.


If you're interested in the contents of this dataset, or have any data that could be useful to us, please get in touch with Jon Lee or Hannah Gow.