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Definition: kame from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Geological feature, usually in the form of a mound or ridge, formed by the deposition of rocky material carried by a stream of glacial meltwater. Kames are commonly laid down in front of or at the edge of a glacier (kame terrace), and are associated with the disintegration of glaciers at the end of an ice age.

Kames are made of well-sorted rocky material, usually sands and gravels. The rock particles tend to be rounded (by attrition) because they have been transported by water.

Summary Article: KAMES
From Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series: Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments

A kame is an ice contact glaciofluvial landform. It is composed of sediment deposited by water in contact with glacier ice either at the side of, or on the surface of a glacier. The sediment fills of supraglacial streams and lakes, ice marginal channels and ice-dammed lakes often form flat-topped hills or terraces after the ice has disappeared. The term kame is a Scottish word to describe such flat-topped hills. Kames are closely related to eskers, and transitional forms between the two occur. Generally kames are less continuous and are associated with supraglacial or ice-marginal water, whereas eskers are more continuous and are associated with subglacial water. The presence of flat or gently sloping surfaces, representing fluvial surfaces, is sometimes said to be a diagnostic characteristic of kames. However, postglacial collapse following the loss of ice support can seriously disturb kame morphology.

Kames generally consist of well-sorted, stratified sediments. If deposited by glacial streams they are dominated by sands and gravels. If deposited in lakes they are characterized by clay, silt and fine sand. Kames can occur as individual hills, as plateau areas or as terraces. At the smallest end of the spectrum of kame forms are supraglacial crevasse fillings. Where many kames occur together within an area the term kame field is sometimes used. Kames are often associated with kettle holes to produce “kame and kettle” topography. Kame landscapes tend to reflect environments where ice retreat was accompanied by abundant meltwater and sediment supply.

The term “kame” is often applied to mean “ice contact” in compound terms such as kame terrace, kame delta or kame plateau. Terraces generally form where streams flow along margins of glaciers, and therefore they lie parallel to the ice margin where the margin lies on a reverse slope. So-called “flights” of terraces at different levels may be created as a glacier surface reduces in elevation during ice retreat. Kame deltas, also known as delta moraines or simply ice-contact deltas, form where glacial streams emerge from the glacier into water.

As they are created in ice-contact situations kames are prone to collapse as ice retreats. Their sedimentary architecture therefore reflects not only the processes of deposition but also the processes of structural collapse. Supraglacially-derived sediments are likely to be more disturbed than ice marginal deposits. Survival of extensive kames indicates that an area was dominated by down-wasting and meltout of ice after any phase of extensive proglacial fluvial erosion, which would have removed the kames. Benn and Evans (1998), Bennett and Glasser (1996) and Hambrey (1994) provide useful reviews of this topic.



Glacial Geomorphology

Glacial Sediments

Glaciofluvial Sediments


  • Benn, D.I.; Evans, D.J.A. 1998. Glaciers and Glaciation, Arnold London UK 734pp.
  • Bennett, M.R.; Glasser, N.F. 1996. Glacial Geology. Wiley Chichester UK 364pp.
  • Hambrey, M.J., 1994. Glacial Environments, UCL Press London UK 296pp.
  • Peter G. Knight
    © 2009 Springer Science + Business Media B.V.

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