Polar and subpolar coasts are distinctive owing to the presence of ice on land as permafrost, ground ice and glacier ice, and in the sea as tidewater glaciers, icebergs, ice shelves and sea ice. Most of these coasts remain glaciated or are recently deglaciated so their geomorphology carries a strong glacial signature. The morphogenetic environment of polar and subpolar coasts is dominated by extreme seasonality with winter development of sea ice and a shore-fast ice foot that excludes wave activity and is primarily protective. However, sea ice may also be erosional at any time of year but is most effective as an erosional agent on polar coasts between freeze-up and break-up, when wave activity forces sea ice to repeatedly impact the shore. Depending on latitude, the short summers are characterized by wave and sea ice erosion at high latitudes and by wave activity at lower latitudes. The contribution of frost weathering to cliff and shore platform development in polar and subpolar rock coasts is unclear, but is likely to be an important influence. Rock coasts are widespread in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, including Iceland, and in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic the limited ice-free coast is almost entirely rock-dominated.
|Strandflat au Spitsberg, 2004 (photo: S. Etienne).