Definition: channels cut by glacial meltwater under, along, and in front of an ice margin. Meltwater may flow under hydrostatic pressure within the glacier and the resultant channels will show up-down long profiles, indicating flow uphill. Alternatively, water may flow under gravity. Meltwater channels are recognizable from their odd topographic positions, in cols and along hillsides. Many are too large (misfit) to have been cut by the streams that now occupy the channels.

Meltwater channels are not conspicuous in many parts of Caithness. Good examples occur where the plateau drops towards the Pentland Firth and at Warehouse, but no integrated system of channels has been mapped on the plain of Caithness. It is certain that many of the existing rivers occupy channels which were deepened by meltwater erosion during the Ice Age. The Wick River, for example, flowers in a broad, drift-filled valley where the bedrock floor reaches at least 20 metres below present sea level. Rock-cut channels do not seem to be widespread on the ridges and hills that rise from the plain of Caithness. Given the strong streamlining of the terrain due to glacial erosion by ice flowing towards the north coast, it is likely that the main effects of meltwater erosion lie hidden in the valleys and depressions between the ridges.

Meltwater channel near Sandside

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