We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Long, A.J., Roberts, D.H. & Dawson, S. Early Holocene history of the west Greenland Ice Sheet and the GH-8.2 event. Quaternary Science Reviews. 2006;25:904-922.

Author(s) from Durham


The margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet retreated rapidly during
the first few thousand years of the Holocene. During this period of
relative warmth, known as the Holocene thermal maximum, ice core records
identify a significant short-lived cooling event at approximately
8.4–8.0 ka cal. yr BP (the ‘GH-8.2 event’) associated with a 5–7
°C fall in mean annual air temperature over the centre of the ice sheet.
In this paper we constrain the history of the ice sheet margin in Disko
Bugt (west Greenland) and that of a major ice stream, Jakobshavns Isbrae,
during the early Holocene, which incorporates the interval of the GH-8.2
event. Our work is based on a new relative sea-level curve and minimum age
estimates for the timing of deglaciation from two field sites, combined
with a review of previously published research from the study area. We
identify important differences in the chronology of ice margin recession
during the early Holocene, most noticeably, the margin of Jakobshavns
Isbrae retreated well inland of the adjacent ice sheet at this time. We
conclude that the early Holocene ‘Fjord Stade’ moraines in Disko Bugt
do not record a uniform ice sheet margin response to the GH-8.2 event.
Rather, these moraines are diachronous and formed between c. 10–8 ka
cal. yr BP, their age varying as a function of the interplay between
topography and ice sheet/ice stream dynamics. We hypothesise that one
cause for the lack of an identifiable response to the GH-8.2 event is
because topographic controls dominated ice sheet behaviour at this time.
In lowland areas, any increase in ice sheet mass balance was probably
associated with an increase in calving rather than any major advance of a
grounded ice sheet margin.


Alley, R.B., Mayewski, P.A., Sowers, T., Stuiver, M., Taylor,
Clark, P.U., 1997. Holocene climatic instability—a prominent
widespread event 8200 yr ago. Geology 25, 483–486.
Alley, R.B., A ´ gu´ stsdo´ ttir, A.M., 2005. The 8k event: cause and
consequences of a major Holocene abrupt climate change.
Quaternary Science Reviews 24, 1123–1149.
Andersen, B.G., Mangerud, J., Sørensen, R., Reite, A., Sveian, H.,
Thoresen, M., Bergestro¨ m, B., 1995. Younger Dryas ice-marginal
deposits in Norway. Quaternary International 28, 147–169.
Bo¨ cher, J., Fredskild, B., 1993. Plant and arthropod remains from the
palaeo-Eskimo site on Qeqertasussuk, West Greenland. Meddelelser
om Grønland. Geoscience 30, 35.
Barber, M.W., Bilodeau, G., McNeely, R., Southon, J., Morehead,
M.D., Gagnon, J.-M., 1999. Forcing of the cold event of 8,200 400,
Boulton, G.S., Jones, A.S., 1979. Stability of temperate ice caps and ice
sheets resting on deformable sediment. Journal of Glaciology 29,
Brett, C.P., Zarudzki, E.F.K., 1979. Project Westmar, a shallow
marine geophysical survey on the West Greenland shelf. Grønlands
Geologiske Undersøgelse 97, 1–27.
Chalmers, J.A., Pulvertaft, T.C.R., Marcussen, C., Pedersen, A.K.,
1999. New insight into the structure of the Nuussuaq Basin, central
West Greenland. Marine and Petroleum Geology 16, 197–224.
Clarke, G.K.C., Leverington, D.W., Teller, J.T., Dyke, A.S., 2004.
Paleohydraulics of the last outburst flood event from glacial Lake
Agassiz and the 8200 BP cold event. Quaternary Science Reviews
23, 389–407.
Conway, H., Hall, B.L., Denton, G.H., Gades, A.M., Waddington,
E.D., 1999. Past and future grounding-line retreat of the West
Antarctic ice sheet. Science 286, 280–283.
Dahl, S.O., Nesje, A., 1994. Holocene glacier fluctuations in Norway: a
high resolution composite chronology from lacustrine and terrestrial
deposits. The Holocene 4, 269–277.
Denton, G.H., Karle´ n, W., 1973. Holocene climate variations—their
pattern and possible cause. Quaternary Research 3, 155–205.
Donner, J., Jungner, H., 1975. Radiocarbon dating of shells from
marine deposits in the Disko Bugt area, West Greenland. Boreas 4,
Dyke, A.S., Prest, V.K., 1987. Late Wisconsinan and Holocene history
of the Laurentide ice sheet. Geographie Physique et Quaternaire
41, 237–264.
Foged, N., 1972. The diatoms in four postglacial deposits in
Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland 194, 1–66.
Foged, N., 1973. Diatoms from Southwest Greenland. Meddelelser om
Grønland 194, 1–84.
Foged, N., 1977. The diatoms in four postglacial deposits at
Godtha˚ bsfjord, West Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland 199,
Funder, S., Hansen, L., 1996. The Greenland ice sheet—a model for its
culmination and decay during and after the last glacial maximum.
Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark 42, 137–152.
Hendey, N.I., 1964. An introductory account of the smaller algae of
British coastal waters. Part V: Bacillariophyceae (Diatoms).
Fisheries Investigation Series, I. HMSO, London.
Hillaire-Marcel, C., Occhietti, S., Vincent, J.S., 1981. Sakami moraine,
Quebec—a 500-km-long moraine without climatic control. Geology
9, 210–214.
Hubbard, A., 1999. High-resolution modelling of the advance of the
Younger Dryas ice sheet and its climate in Scotland. Quaternary
Research 52, 27–43.
Hustedt, F., 1957. Diatome´ enflora der Fluss-Systems der Weser im
Gebeit der Hansestadt Bremen. Abh. naturw. Ver. Bremen 34,
Kaufman, D.S., Ager, T.A., Anderson, N.J., Anderson, P.M.,
Andrews, J.T., Bartlein, P.J., Brubaker, L.B., Coats, L.L., Cwynar,
L.C., Duvall, M.L., Dyke, A.S., Edwards, M.E., Eisner, W.R.,
Gajewski, K., Geirsdo´ ttir, A., Hu, F.S., Jennings, A.E., Kaplan,
M.R., Kerwin, M.W., Lozhkin, A.V., MacDonald, G.M., Miller,
G.H., Mock, C.J., Oswald, W.W., Otto-Bliesner, B.L., Pornichu,
D.F., Ru¨ hland, K., Smol, J.P., Steig, E.J., Wolfe, B.B., 2004.
Holocene thermal maximum in the western Arctic (0–180 1W).
Quaternary Science Reviews 23, 529–560.
Kelly, M., 1980. The status of the Neoglacial in western Greenland.
Rapport Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse 96, 1–24.
Kelly, M., 1985. A review of the Quaternary geology of western
Greenland. In: Andrews, J.T. (Ed.), Quaternary environments of
eastern Canadian Arctic, Baffin Bay and western Greenland. Allen
and Unwin, Boston, pp. 461–501.
Long, A.J., Roberts, D.H., 2002. A revised chronology for the Fjord
Stade moraine in Disko Bugt, West Greenland. Journal of
Quaternary Science 17, 561–579.
Long, A.J., Roberts, D.H., 2003. Late Weichselian deglacial history of
Disko Bugt, West Greenland, and the dynamics of Jakobshavns
Isbrae ice stream. Boreas 32, 208–226.
Long, A.J., Roberts, D.H., Wright, M.R., 1999. Isolation basin
stratigraphy and Holocene relative sea-level change on Arveprinsen
Eijland, Disko Bugt, West Greenland. Journal of Quaternary
Science 14, 323–345.
Menounos, B., Koch, J., Osborn, G., Clague, J.J., Mazzuchi, D., 2004.
Early Holocene glacier advance, southern Coast Mountains,
British Colombia, Canada. Quaternary Science Reviews 23,
Nesje, A., Matthews, J.A., Dahl, S.O., Berrisford, M.S., Andersson,
C., 2001. Holocene glacier fluctuations of Flatebreen and winter
precipitation changes in the Josterdalsbreen region, western Norway,
based on glaciolacustrine sediment records. The Holocene 11,
Palmer, A.J.M., Abbott, W.H., 1986. Diatoms as indicators of sealevel
change. In: Van de Plassche (Ed.), Sea-level research: a
manual for the collection and evaluation of data. Geo Books,
Norwich, pp. 457–488.
Patrick, R., Reimer, C.W., 1966. The diatoms of the United States
exclusive of Hawaii and Alaska, vol. 1. Monograph of the
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Nr 13, 688pp.
Patrick, R., Reimer, C.W., 1975. The diatoms of the United States
exclusive of Hawaii and Alaska, vol. 2, Part 1. Monograph of the
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Nr 13, 213pp.
Pelto, M.S., Hughes, T.J., Brecher, H.H., 1989. Equilibrium state of
Jakobshavn Isbrae, West Greenland. Journal of Glaciology 12,
Pelto, M.S., Warren, C.R., 1990. Relationship between tidewater
glacier calving velocity and water depth at the calving front. Annals
of Glaciology 15, 115–118.
Rasch, M., 1997. A compilation of radiocarbon dates from
Disko Bugt, Central West Greenland. Geografisk Tidsskrift 97,
Rasch, M., 2000. Holocene relative sea level changes in Disko Bugt,
West Greenland. Journal of Coastal Research 16, 306–315.
Roberts, D.H., Long, A.J., 2005. The marginal subglacial signature of
Jakobshavns Isbrae, West Greenland: implications for ice stream
and ice sheet dynamics. Boreas 34, 24–42.
Seierstad, J., Nesje, A., Dahl, S.O., Simonsen, J.R., 2002. Holocene
glacier fluctuations of Grovabreem and Holocene snow-avalanche
activity reconstructed from lake sediments in Groningstolsvatnet,
western Norway. The Holocene 12, 211–222.
Stuiver, M., Reimer, P.J., Bard, E., Beck, J.W., Burr, G.S., Hughen,
K.A., Kromer, B., McCormac, G., van der Plicht, J., Spurk, M.,
1998. INTCAL98 Radiocarbon age calibration, 24,000–0 cal. BP.
Radiocarbon 40, 1041–1083.
Tarasov, L., Peltier, W.R., 2002. Greenland glacial history and local
geodynamic consequences. Geophysical Journal International 150,
Taylor, J., Siegert, M.J., Payne, A.J., Hambrey, M.J., O’Brien, P.E.,
Cooper, A.K., Leitchenkov, G., 2004. Topographic controls on
post-Oligocene changes in ice-sheet dynamics, Prydz Bay region,
East Antarctica. Geology 32, 197–200.
Tauber, H., 1968. Copenhagen radiocarbon dates IX. Radiocarbon 10,
Teller, J.T., Leverington, D.W., Mann, J.D., 2002. Freshwater
outbursts to the oceans from glacial Lake Agassiz and their role
in climate change during the last deglaciation. Quaternary Science
Reviews 21, 879–887.
van der Werff, H., Huls, H., 1958–1974. Diatome´ enflora van Nederland
8 parts. Published privately. van Tatenhove, F.G., Fabre, A., Greve, R.,
Huybrechts, P., 1996.
Modelled ice-sheet margins of three Greenland ice-sheet models
compared with a geological record from ice-marginal deposits in
central West Greenland. Annals of Glaciology 23, 52–58.
Walker, M.J.C., Bjo¨ rck, S., Lowe, J.J., Cwynar, L.C., Johnsen, S.,
Knudsen, K.-L., Wohlfarth, B., INTIMATE group., 1999. Isotopic
‘events’ in the GRIP ice core: a stratotype for the Late Pleistocene.
Quaternary Science Reviews 18, 1143–1150.
Warren, C.R., Hulton, N.R.J., 1990. Topographic and glaciological
controls on Holocene ice-sheet margin dynamics, central West
Greenland. Annals of Glaciology 14, 307–310.
Weidick, A., 1968. Observations on some Holocene glacier fluctuations
in West Greenland. Meddelelsser om Grønland 165,
Weidick, A., 1974. C14 dating of survey material performed in 1973.
Rapport Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse 66, 42–45.

Department of Geography