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A revised chronology of key Vatnajökull (Iceland) outlet glaciers during the Little Ice Age

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Glacier fluctuations from key Vatnajökull outlets have been redated using tephrochronology coupled with two lichenometric techniques to ascertain the timing of the Little Ice Age (LIA) maximum in southeast Iceland. An updated tephrochronology for southeast Iceland (both the number of tephra layers present and their geochemical signatures) indicates a LIA maximum for both glaciers between AD 1755 and 1873. Based on a population gradient approach, lichenometrically dated moraines along the margins of Skálafellsjökull and Heinabergsjökull narrow this window to the early to mid-19th century respectively. These revised chronologies, in addition to emerging evidence from elsewhere in Iceland, support a late 18th- to early 19th-century LIA glacier maximum. In contrast, the Norwegian LIA glacial maximum is strongly centred around AD 1750. This implies differing glaciological responses to secular shifts in the North Atlantic Oscillation. Such revisions to the Vatnajökull record are crucial, as accurately identifying the timing and delimiting the spatial extent of the Icelandic LIA glacier maximum will allow further light to be shed on glacier–climate interactions in the North Atlantic.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2005

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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