ae.03 Exploring glacial landscapes


  • Statement of inquiry
    • Scientific and technical innovators need to understand how power affects the processes that occur within systems.
  • Factual questions [Remembering facts and topics]
    • Where is the Moiry Valley?
    • How much has the Moiry glacier retreated in recent time?
    • What does a cirque, U shaped valley, hanging valley, arête pyramidal peak, erratic and moraine ridge look like?
  • Conceptual questions [Analysing big ideas]
    • What value does the Moiry Valley/glacier have for humans?
  • Aims of this lesson
    • To explore a glaciated landscape in order to improve your understanding before we focus in more detail upon erosional and depositional landforms.



Using VR Glaciers and Glaciated Landscapes to explore glacial landscapes

We are going to be using VR Glaciers and Glaciated Landscapes produced by the University of Worcester (UK), Quaternary Research Association and British Society of Geomorphology to explore the Moiry Valley (Switzerland) as an example of a glaciated landscape.

We have already explored the inputs, outputs and (some of the processes) associated with glaciers. By exploring the glaciated landscape as a whole it will help develop your understanding before we focus in more detail upon erosional and depositional landforms.

[2 April 2020]

Location → Moiry Valley, Valais, Switzerland


VR Glaciers and Glaciated Landscapes - Virtual Fieldwork - Moiry Valley → Take me there!

You will notice that the webpage is made up of two panes. The panosphere pane on the left and the map pane on the right. You can zoom in and out on both panes. You can move around within each of the panes.

VR Glaciers and Glaciated Landscapes - Panes

When you hover over a yellow dot in the panosphere - you will see a number. This is the site number and we will be referring to these throughout this exercise. The site numbers can also be seen in the top right hand corner of the panosphere pane.

  1. Take 10 minutes to explore the Moiry Valley. Work out how to zoom in and out. Work out how to move between the different numbered sites. Work out how to find out which way you are looking - north, south etc.
  2. Write down at least three questions you have about the Moiry Valley as a glaciated landscape.
  3. Return to Site 1. Describe and explain at least 3 opportunities presented to humans by the Moiry Valley.
  4. Use Google Maps to find how long it would take to drive from your house to the Barrage de Moiry.

Glacial systems

  1. Using the image above (which you have seen before) → which site, looking in which compass direction, gives you the best view of the following →
    • The accumulation zone of the Moiry glacier
    • The input of snow from snow precipitation and/or avalanches
    • Crevasses
    • The ablation zone
    • A glacial lake and flood plain.

The retreat of the Moiry glacier

Go to the Swiss Glacier Monitoring website page for the Glacier de Moiry zentral → and use the interactive versions of each of these graphs to answer the questions.

Glacier de Moiry zentral - Length change (cumulative)
Glacier de Moiry zentral - Length change (cumulative) [Source]
Glacier de Moiry zentral - Length change (periodic)
Glacier de Moiry zentral - Length change (periodic) [Source]
  1. When was the last time that the Moiry glacier advanced?
  2. In which single time period (year) did the Moiry glacier advance the furthest?
  3. How far did the Moiry glacier retreat in 2017-2018?

Go to Site 5 and orientate yourself so that you can see a view similar to the one below →

Moiry Valley - Site 5 - outline
  1. What evidence is there in the panosphere view that the Moiry glacier has retreated - other than the fact that you can't see it in the view!

Erosional landforms

Site 12 is an absolute beauty! There is so much physical geography going on in that view. Go to Site 12 and look south.

In this view I believe that you can see (at least part or evidence of) the following landforms that have been formed mainly by erosional processes: a cirque, a U shaped valley, a hanging valley , mainy arêtes and several pyramidal peaks.

  1. Screenshot the view and then annotate the screenshot with the location of the landforms. You may need to do a little bit of research upon each of the landforms first.

Depositional landforms

Go to Site 18 and find the boulder which can be seen in the image below. You are standing in the glacier itself, not far above the snout.

Site 18 - Boulder
  1. Where has the boulder come from? How do you know? What tests could you do to increase the certainty of your answer?
  2. If you were to come and find this exact same boulder in 20 years time - where would it be?

Go to site 23 and look south east along the ridge that you are standing upon.

Site 23
Site 23
  1. Describe the location and orientation of the ridge. You could explore the sites to north and south of Site 23 if it helps.
  2. What do you think the ridge it made of? Is it made of solid rock?
  3. How do you think that this ridge was formed?

Extension task - using SwissTopo

Go back to here → VR Glaciers and Glaciated Landscapes - Virtual Fieldwork - Moiry Valley → and download the Google Earth file.

Go here → Moiry Valley on the SwissTopo website → drag and drop the Google Earth file onto the map.

Use the 'Journey through time - Maps' layer to work out the following →

  1. In which year was the Barrage de Moiry built?
  2. When did the glacier last reach Site 2?
  3. When did the glacier last reach site 12?
  1. Take a screenshot of the panosphere view South from Site 12. Use the SwissTopo map to name the peaks. Annotate the names onto your screenshot.