A 3000-year varved record of glacier activity and climate change from the proglacial lake Hvitarvatn, Iceland

Darren J. Larsen, Gifford H. Miller, Aslaug Geirsdottir, Thorvaldur Thordarson

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract

A suite of environmental proxies in annually laminated sediments from Hvitarvatn, a proglacial lake in the central highlands of Iceland, are used to reconstruct regional climate variability and glacial activity for the past 3000 years. Sedimentological analysis is supported by tephrostratigraphy to confirm the continuous, annual nature of the laminae, and a master varve chronology places proxies from multiple lake cores in a secure geochronology. Varve thickness is controlled by the rate of glacial erosion and efficiency of subglacial discharge from the adjacent Langjokull ice cap. The continuous presence of glacially derived clastic varves in the sediment fill confirms that the ice cap has occupied the lake catchment for the duration of the record. Varve thickness, varve thickness variance, ice-rafted debris, total organic carbon (mass flux and bulk concentration), and C:N of sedimentary organic matter, reveal a dynamic late Holocene climate with abrupt and large-scale changes in ice-cap size and landscape stability. A first-order trend toward cooler summers and ice-cap expansion is punctuated by notable periods of rapid ice cap growth and/or landscape instability at ca 1000 BC, 600 BC, 550 AD and 1250 AD. The largest perturbation began ca 1250 AD, signaling the onset of the Little Ice Age and the termination of three centuries of relative warmth during Medieval times. Consistent deposition of ice-rafted debris in Hvitarvatn is restricted to the last 250 years, demonstrating that Langjokull only advanced into Hvitkvatn during the coldest centuries of the Little Ice Age, beginning in the mid eighteenth century. This advance represents the glacial maximum for at least the last 3 ka, and likely since regional deglaciation 10 ka. The multi-centennial response of biological proxies to the Hekla 3 tephra deposition illustrates the significant impact of large explosive eruptions on local environments, and catchment sensitivity to perturbations. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2715-2731
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume30
Issue number19-20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011

Keywords

  • Varves
  • Iceland
  • Lake sediment
  • Glacier erosion
  • Soil erosion
  • Holocene paleoclimate
  • Medieval warm period
  • Little ice age
  • SEA-SURFACE TEMPERATURE
  • NORTH-ATLANTIC CLIMATE
  • PAST 2 MILLENNIA
  • LATE-HOLOCENE
  • ENVIRONMENTAL-CHANGE
  • ICE-AGE
  • LATEST PLEISTOCENE
  • DIATOM RECORD
  • TEPHRA LAYERS
  • HECTOR LAKE

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