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Cirque, California

Erosional Landform Pictures


A cirque ("serk") is a bowl-shaped rock valley on the side of a mountain, often with a glacier or permanent snowfield in it. (more below)
Mountain bowls carved by glaciers
Photo courtesy Ron Schott of Flickr under Creative Commons license
Cirques are created by glaciers, grinding an existing valley into a rounded shape with steep sides. This cirque was undoubtedly occupied by ice during all of the many ice ages of the last 2 million years, but at the moment it contains only a névé, or permanent field of icy snow. Another cirque appears in this picture of Longs Peak in the Colorado Rockies. Cirques are found wherever glaciers exist, or where they existed in the past. Cirques may also be called corries or cwms; cirque (ring) is a French word while corrie (caldron) is from Scots Gaelic and cwm (bowl) is a Welsh word with British roots, more often used by mountaineers than geologists. This cirque is in Yosemite National Park. Many cirques contain tarns, clear alpine ponds nestled in the hollow of the cirque.

Hanging valleys are commonly formed by cirques.

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