Precise chronology of Little Ice Age expansion and repetitive surges of Langjökull, central Iceland

Darren J. Larsen, Áslaug Geirsdóttir, Gifford H. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The nonlinear and complex behavior of glacier dynamic processes (e.g., surging and ice calving) presents major challenges for future estimates of runoff and sea-level change. Because direct observations are temporally limited, reconstructions of past fluctuations from glaciers that undergo dynamic advance and/or retreat are valuable. We constructed a 300 yr, annually resolved record of surges and terminus fluctuations of Langjökull ice cap (central Iceland) using a novel combination of varve counting, multibeam bathymetry, seismic imagery, and multiple sediment cores from targeted sites in Hvítárvatn, a large proglacial lake. Langjökull achieved its maximum Neoglacial extent between ca. A.D. 1700 and ca. 1930, when two outlet glaciers, Nordurjökull and Sudurjökull, advanced into the lake and maintained active calving margins. Nordurjökull advanced into the basin ca. 1720, and remained at or near its maximum extension for most of the 19th century, whereas Sudurjökull underwent a quasi-periodic series of 8 surges between 1828 and 1930, with a recurrence interval of 14 ± 4 yr. Each surge event resulted in fragmentation of the glacier terminus during advances of up to1.6 km that occurred in <2 yr. Collapse of the expanded ice, iceberg melting, and reestablishment of the ice front at a nearshore grounding line occurred within 1-3 yr of the surge. Surges converted glacier ice to runoff at ~10× the non-surging rate. Our precise estimates of the timing, duration, and magnitude of Sudurjökull surges provide ideal targets for the next generation of glacier surge models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-170
Number of pages4
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 7 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Geological Society of America.

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

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  • GLAD4

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