Kettle (landform)

A kettle (kettle hole, pothole) is a depression/hole in an outwash plain formed by retreating glaciers or draining floodwaters. The kettles are formed as a result of blocks of dead ice left behind by retreating glaciers, which become surrounded by sediment deposited by meltwater streams as there is increased friction. The ice becomes buried in the sediment and when the ice melts, a depression is left called a kettle hole, creating a dimpled appearance on the outwash plain. Lakes often fill these kettles; these are called kettle hole lakes. Another source is the sudden drainage of an ice-dammed lake. When the block melts, the hole it leaves behind is a kettle. As the ice melts, ramparts can form around the edge of the kettle hole. The lakes that fill these holes are seldom more than 10 m (33 ft) deep and eventually become filled with sediment. In acid conditions, a kettle bog may form but in alkaline conditions, it will be kettle peatland.

Kettle lakes in Yamal Peninsula (Northern Siberia), adjacent to the Gulf of Ob (right). The lake colors indicate amounts of sediment or depth; the deeper or clearer the water, the bluer the lake


Kettles are fluvioglacial landforms occurring as the result of blocks of ice calving from the front of a receding glacier and becoming partially to wholly buried by glacial outwash. Glacial outwash is generated when streams of meltwater flow away from the glacier and deposit sediment to form broad outwash plains called sandurs. When the ice blocks melt, kettle holes are left in the sandur. When the development of numerous kettle holes disrupt sandur surfaces, a jumbled array of ridges and mounds form, resembling kame and kettle topography.[1] Kettle holes can also occur in ridge shaped deposits of loose rock fragments called till.[2]

Kettle holes can form as the result of floods caused by the sudden drainage of an ice-dammed lake. These floods, called jökulhlaups, often rapidly deposit large quantities of sediment onto the sandur surface. The kettle holes are formed by the melting blocks of sediment-rich ice that were transported and consequently buried by the jökulhlaups. It was found in field observations and laboratory simulations done by Maizels in 1992 that ramparts form around the edge of kettle holes generated by jökulhlaups. The development of distinct types of ramparts depends on the concentration of rock fragments contained in the melted ice block and on how deeply the block was buried by sediment.[3]

Most kettle holes are less than two kilometres in diameter, although some in the U.S. Midwest exceed ten kilometres. Puslinch Lake in Ontario, Canada, is the largest kettle lake in Canada spanning 160 hectares (400 acres). Fish Lake in the north-central Cascade Mountains of the U.S. state of Washington is 200 hectares (490 acres).[4]

A kettle in the Isunngua highland, central-western Greenland

The depth of most kettles is less than ten meters.[2] In most cases, kettle holes eventually fill with water, sediment, or vegetation. If the kettle is fed by surface or underground rivers or streams, it becomes a kettle lake. If the kettle receives its water from precipitation, the groundwater table, or a combination of the two, it is termed a kettle pond or kettle wetland, if vegetated. Kettle ponds that are not affected by the groundwater table will usually become dry during the warm summer months, in which case they are deemed ephemeral.[5]

Kettle bogs

If water in a kettle becomes acidic due to decomposing organic plant matter, it becomes a kettle bog; or, if underlying soils are lime-based and neutralize the acidic conditions somewhat, it becomes a kettle peatland. Kettle bogs are closed ecosystems because they have no water source other than precipitation. Both acidic kettle bogs and fresh water kettles are important ecological niches for some symbiotic species of flora and fauna.[6]

Kettle pond Hossa
A kettle pond in the Hossa hiking area, Suomussalmi, Finland
Numerous kettle lakes border the Denali Highway in Alaska

The Kettle Moraine, a region of Wisconsin covering an area from Green Bay to south-central Wisconsin, has numerous kettles, moraines and other glacial features. It has many kettle lakes, some of which are 100 to 200 feet (61 m) deep. Kettle Point, Ontario, Canada, has rock concretions locally named 'kettles', but there are no kettle lakes in this region.

Examples of kettles

The Prairie Pothole Region extends from northern Alberta, Canada to Iowa, United States and includes thousands of small sloughs and lakes.

See also


  1. ^ Bennet, M and Glasser, N: Glacial Geology:Ice Sheets and Landforms, page 262. John Wiley and Sons, 1997
  2. ^ a b Tarbuck, E and Lutgens, F: Earth, page 351. Prentice Hall, 2002
  3. ^ Bennett, M and Glasser, N: Glacial Geology: Ice Sheets and Landforms, page 267. John Wiley and Sons, 1997
  4. ^ Schmuck and Peterson, 2002 Warmwater Fisheries Survey of Fish Lake, Chelan County, Washington, page 1, State of Washington, 2005
  5. ^ "Glacial Formations -- The Slackpacker's Geology Primer". Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Interests". Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Mires". Rokua Geopark. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve".
  10. ^

Further reading

Pinhook Bog

Pinhook Bog is a unique bog in Indiana that has been designated a National Natural Landmark. It is part of Indiana Dunes National Park, an area that many citizens, scientists, and politicians fought hard to preserve. Its sister bog, Volo Bog, is located nearby. The bog contains a large variety of plants, including insect eating plants, tamarack trees, stands of blueberry bushes, and floating mats of sphagnum moss. Pinhook Bog is about 580 acres (2.3 km2), a quarter of which is a floating mat of sphagnum peat moss. A "moat" separates the bog from the uplands.

Vashon Glaciation

The Vashon Glaciation, Vashon Stadial or Vashon Stade is a local term for the most recent period of very cold climate in which during its peak, glaciers covered the entire Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca as well as present day Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and other surrounding areas in the western part of present-day Washington (state) of the United States of America. This occurred during a cold period around the world known as the last glacial period. This was the most recent cold period of the Pleistocene Ice Age. The Pleistocene Glaciation is the ice age that the planet is currently in and has been in for the last 2.58 million years. It is the time period in which the arctic ice sheets have existed. The Pleistocene Ice Age is part of an even longer ice age called the Late Cenozoic Ice Age, which began 33.9 million years ago and is ongoing. It is the time period in which the Antarctic ice cap has existed.

The Vashon Glaciation lasted from about 19,000 – 16,000 BP (Before Present – present defined as January 1, 1950 for this scale). The Cordilleran Ice Sheet was an ice sheet that covered present-day southern Alaska and parts of western Canada. During the Vashon Glaciation, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet advanced into the Puget Sound region out of present-day British Columbia.

The Cordilleran, Laurentide, Innuitian, and the currently existing Greenland Ice Sheet all made up the North American ice sheet complex, which covered present day Canada and much of the northern U.S. This cold glaciated time for North America was called the Wisconsin glaciation. The Fraser Glaciation began when the Cordilleran Ice Sheet advanced from the mountains of British Columbia.

Continental glaciations
North America
Eurasia and
Time periods
Volcanic relations
Ponds, Pools, and Puddles
Classification systems

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