Climatic control of the surge periodicity of an Icelandic outlet glacier



Surging outlet glaciers are important in draining large ice caps, but the mechanisms controlling surge periodicities are poorly known. We investigated a sediment sequence from the glacier-fed Lake Lögurinn in eastern Iceland, and our unique annually resolved data, based on sedimentary varves, imply that Eyjabakkajökull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, began surging about 2200 cal a BP (before 1950 AD). Approximately 1700 cal a BP, the glacier started to surge at a uniform 34- to 38-year periodicity that prevailed until the coldest part of the Little Ice Age when the periodicity almost halved to 21–23 years. Since the late 1800 s the surge periodicity of Eyjabakkajökull has returned to a longer period of 35–40 years. We suggest that surge periodicities of Eyjabakkajökull are forced by climatically driven mass balance changes, which may be a common forcing factor for similar surge-type outlet glaciers. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.