Particle fabrics of basal tills may allow testing of the bed-deformation model of glacier flow, which requires high bed shear strains (>100). Field studies, however, have not yielded a systematic relationship between shear-strain magnitude and fabric development. To isolate this relationship four basal tills and viscous putty were sheared in a ring-shear device to strains as high as 714. Fabric was characterized within a zone of shear deformation using the long-axis orientations of fine-gravel and sand particles and the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS) of small (???5-8 cm3) intact samples. Results indicate that till particles rotate toward the plane of shearing with long-axis orientations that become tightly clustered in the direction of shear (0??78 < S1 < 0??94 for three-dimensional data). These strong, steady-state fabrics are attained at shear strains of 7-30, with no evidence of fabric weakening with further strain, regardless of the specific till or particle-size fraction under consideration. These results do not support the Jeffery model of particle rotation, which correctly describes particle rotation in the viscous putty but not in the tills, owing to fluid-mechanical assumptions of the model that are violated in till. The sensitivity of fabric development to shear-strain magnitude indicates that, for most till units where shear-strain magnitude is poorly known, attributing fabric variations to spatial differences in other variables, such as till thickness or water content, will be inherently speculative. Attributing fabric characteristics to particular basal till facies is uncertain because shear-strain magnitude is unlikely to be closely correlated to till facies. Weak or spatially variable fabrics, in the absence of post-depositional disturbance or major deviations from unidirectional simple shear, indicate that till has not been pervasively sheared to the high strains required by the bed-deformation model. Strong flow-parallel fabrics are a necessary but insufficient criterion for confirming the model. Copyright ?? 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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The experimental basis for interpreting particle and magnetic fabrics of sheared till