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Ice-margin and meltwater dynamics during the mid-Holocene in the Kangerlussuaq area of west Greenland

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrew RussellORCiD


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© 2016 Collegium Boreas. Land-terminating parts of the west Greenland ice sheet have exhibited highly dynamic meltwater regimes over the last few decades including episodes of extremely intense runoff driven by ice surface ablation, ponding of meltwater in an increasing number and size of lakes, and sudden outburst floods, or 'jökulhlaups', from these lakes. However, whether this meltwater runoff regime is unusual in a Holocene context has not been questioned. This study assembled high-resolution topographical data, geological and landcover data, and produced a glacial geomorphological map covering ~1200 km2. Digital analysis of the landforms reveals a mid-Holocene land-terminating ice margin that was predominantly cold-based. This ice margin underwent sustained active retreat but with multiple minor advances. Over c. 1000 years meltwater runoff became impounded within numerous and extensive proglacial lakes and there were temporary connections between some of these lakes via spillways. The ice-dams of some of these lakes had several quasi-stable thicknesses. Meltwater was apparently predominantly from supraglacial sources although some distributary palaeochannel networks and some larger bedrock palaeochannels most likely relate to mid-Holocene subglacial hydrology. In comparison to the geomorphological record at other Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet margins the depositional landforms in this study area are few in number and variety and small in scale, most likely due to a restricted sediment supply. They include perched fans and deltas and perched braidplain terraces. Overall, meltwater sourcing, routing and the proglacial runoff regime during the mid-Holocene in this land-terminating part of the ice sheet was spatiotemporally variable, but in a manner very similar to that of the present day.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Carrivick JL, Yde J, Russell AJ, Quincey DJ, Ingeman-Nielsen T, Mallalieu J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Boreas

Year: 2017

Volume: 46

Issue: 3

Pages: 369-387

Print publication date: 01/07/2017

Online publication date: 12/08/2016

Acceptance date: 28/06/2016

ISSN (print): 0300-9483

ISSN (electronic): 1502-3885

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/bor.12199


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