Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Local ice caps in Finderup Land, North Greenland, survived the Holocene Thermal Maximum

New publication by Nicolaj K. Larsen, Laura B. Levy, Astrid Strunk, Anne Sofie Søndergaard, Jesper Olsen, Torben L. Lauridsen

2019.03.27 | Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen


 Local glaciers and ice caps (GICs) comprise only ~5.4% of the total ice volume, but account for ~14–20% of the current ice loss in Greenland. The glacial history of GICs is not well constrained, however, and little is known about how they reacted to Holocene climate changes. Specifically, in North Greenland, there is limited knowledge about past GIC fluctuations and whether they survived the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM, ~8 to 5 ka). In this study, we use proglacial lake records to constrain the ice‐marginal fluctuations of three local ice caps in North Greenland including Flade Isblink, the largest ice cap in Greenland. Additionally, we have radiocarbon dated reworked marine molluscs in Little Ice Age (LIA) moraines adjacent to the Flade Isblink, which reveal when the ice cap was smaller than present. We found that outlet glaciers from Flade Isblink retreated inland of their present extent from ~9.4 to 0.2 cal. ka BP. The proglacial lake records, however, demonstrate that the lakes continued to receive glacial meltwater throughout the entire Holocene. This implies that GICs in Finderup Land survived the HTM. Our results are consistent with other observations from North Greenland but differ from locations in southern Greenland where all records show that the local ice caps at low and intermediate elevations disappeared completely during the HTM. We explain the north–south gradient in glacier response as a result of sensitivity to increased temperature and precipitation. While the increased temperatures during the HTM led to a complete melting of GICs in southern Greenland, GICs remained in North Greenland probably because the melting was counterbalanced by increased precipitation due to a reduction in Arctic sea‐ice extent and/or increased poleward moisture transport.

Boreas. doi.org/10.1111/bor.12384

Arctic Research Centre