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Icelandic jökulhlaup impacts: implications for ice-sheet hydrology, sediment transfer and geomorphology

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrew RussellORCiD



Glaciers and ice sheets erode, entrain, and deposit massive quantities of debris. Subglacial meltwater fluxes exert a fundamental control on ice dynamics and sediment transport budgets. Within many glacial systems outburst floods (jökulhlaups) constitute high magnitude, high frequency meltwater fluxes, relative to normal ablation controlled discharge. This paper presents a synthesis of research on recent Icelandic jökulhlaups and their geomorphological and sedimentary impact. We identify jökulhlaup impacts within subglacial, englacial and proglacial settings and discuss their wider significance for ice sheet hydrology, sediment transfer and geomorphology. Because jökulhlaups erode, deposit, and re-work sediment simultaneously, they usually cause significant glaciological and sedimentological impacts. Jökulhlaups that propagate as subglacial flood waves often produce widespread hydromechanical disruption at the glacier base. Recent Icelandic jökulhlaups have been recognised as highly efficient agents of sediment subglacial sediment re-working and glacial sediment entrainment. Models of jökulhlaup impact therefore need to encompass the sub- and englacial environment in addition to the proglacial zone where research has traditionally been focussed. Most jökulhlaups transport sediment to proglacial sandar, and often directly to oceans where preservation potential of their impact is greater. Proglacial jökulhlaup deposits form distinctive sedimentary assemblages, coupled with suites of high-energy erosional landforms. Our study of modern jökulhlaup processes and sedimentary products may be useful for the interpretation of meltwater processes associated with Quaternary ice sheets.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Russell AJ, Roberts MJ, Fay H, Marren PM, Cassidy NJ, Tweed FS, Harris T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geomorphology

Year: 2006

Volume: 75

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 33-64

Print publication date: 04/10/2005

Date deposited: 18/06/2014

ISSN (print): 0169-555X

ISSN (electronic): 1872-695X


DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2005.05.018


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