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Response of glacier flow and structure to proglacial lake development and climate at Fjallsjökull, south-east Iceland

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Carr, Professor Andrew RussellORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Over recent decades, the number of outlet glaciers terminating in lakes in Iceland has increased in line with climate warming. The mass-balance changes of these lake-terminating outlet glaciers are sensitive to rising air temperatures, due to altered glacier dynamics and increased surface melt. This study aims to better understand the relationship between proglacial lake development, climate, glacier dynamics and glacier structure at Fjallsjökull, a large, lake-terminating outlet glacier in southeast Iceland. We used satellite imagery to map glacier terminus position and lake extent between 1973 and 2016, and a combination of aerial and satellite imagery to map the structural architecture of the glacier’s terminus in 1982, 1994 and 2011. The temporal evolution of ice surface velocities between 1990 and 2018 was calculated using feature tracking. Statistically significant increases in the rate of terminus retreat and lake expansion were identified in 2001, 2009 and 2011. Our surface velocity and structural datasets revealed the development of localised flow ‘corridors’ over time, which conveyed relatively faster flow towards the glacier’s terminus. We attribute the overall changes in dynamics and structural architecture at Fjallsjökull to rising air temperatures, but argue that the spatial complexities are driven by glacier specific factors, such as basal topography.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dell R, Carr R, Phillips E, Russell AJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Glaciology

Year: 2019

Volume: 65

Issue: 250

Pages: 321-336

Print publication date: 01/04/2019

Online publication date: 13/03/2019

Acceptance date: 13/03/2019

Date deposited: 15/05/2019

ISSN (print): 0022-1430

ISSN (electronic): 1727-5652

Publisher: International Glaciological Society


DOI: 10.1017/jog.2019.18


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