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Williams College

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

Iceland and Greenland: Climate Change and The Arctic


The Seljavallajökull glacier, part of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier system, and Sólheimajökull, part of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier system, are two glaciers that extend into valleys in the southeast part of Iceland. Due to climate warming, both of these glaciers are part of a melting ice cap. They are located nearby to one another, and Sólheimajökull has been extensively studied for its outwash plain sedimentology, retreat history, pro-glacial geomorphology and has been steadily monitored by the Glaciological Society of Iceland. Seljavallajökull has also been monitored by this group, but it has not been studied for sediment profiles and landscape chronology as Sólheimajökull has. The goal of this paper is to synthesize information on fluvioglacial dynamics and glacial retreat in Iceland to better understand future outcomes of climate change in correlation with local sedimentology in glacial outwash zones. This will describe what kind of geomorphological outcomes and risks are possible in a presently warming global climate in glacial and volcanic environments. Using the wealth of data existing for Sólheimajökull as well as field observations at Seljavallajökull, this localized study will provide measured examples of patterns and behaviors of retreating glaciers, and will possibly provide evidence of the kind of sediment depositing and fluvial events that happen due to melting glacial ice. A hypothesis for sedimentary studies of these outwash zones is that their sediment profiles will have layered sediments, perhaps of similar types between the two glacial sites, with interruptions and differences based on local fluvioglacial events, volcanic history, and retreating sediment outwash. Since there has been more recent flooding at Sólheimajökull, there will be more disruption in sediment layers. Both glaciers are retreating, and this paper aims to thoroughly describe and catalog sediment outputs, glacial processes, and climate responses that occur in Iceland and at a larger scale in a warming climate.


Environmental Health | Environmental Studies | Geographic Information Sciences | Geography | Physical and Environmental Geography | Scandinavian Studies


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