Geomorhology of the Maltese Islands

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The Maltese archipelago has been pushed up and tilted by tectonic forces. Parts of it have been down-faulted while other parts have been uplifted.

The most significant factors that shape our landscape are: faults, folds and dip systems, surface water and Aeolian processes, mass movement, karst processes, Marine processes and paleo sea-level fluctuations.

The pantelleria rift explains a lot of things about the Maltese islands formation. This deep sea rift system known as Pantelleria rift is the cause for the faulting regime on our islands;

Fig1 shows how the Maltese rock strata dip to the North east while on the South west we have the ‘Rdum’ Dingli Cliffs, Ta Cenc etc.

Surface-water runoff is a powerful agent of erosion even in climatic regimes like the Mediterranean. The surface-water run off can be divided in two: Unconfined – rain splash
Confined – Water Gullies, Channelling
One of the most important geomorphic roles of surface water flow is transport of sediment. Large areas of low lying areas have been filled in by sediment, eg Burmarrad Valley.

Aeolian processes effect the landscape from a micro to macro scale. We are right in the path of material transported from the Sahara by wind to area of southern Greece. This is a primary source for the formation of terra rossa soils, very common in Malta. This phenomenon occurred on a regular basis during the month of May this year. Material is also blown away from Malta, this is known as deflation. Abrasion (sculpting) in rock faces, especially on weakly cemented strata is another Aeolian feature very commonly seen in coastal areas of the MI.

Mass Movement is a very significant process in shaping landscapes and is partly dependent on surface water flow. Different resistance to weathering and erosion by Maltese Lithologies promote undercutting and will result in slopes. This phenomenon is being studied by personnel from the University of Modena lead by professor Soldati. Poorly cemented strata like...
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