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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Dave Roberts

Roberts, D.H., Long, A.J., Schnabel, C., Davies, B., Simpson. M.J.R, Sheng, X. & Huybrechts, P. Ice sheet extent and early deglacial history of the southwestern sector of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Quaternary Science Reviews. 2009;28:2760-2773.

Author(s) from Durham


The offshore and coastal geomorphology of southwest Greenland records evidence for the advance and decay of the Greenland Ice Sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum. Regional ice flow patterns in the vicinity of Sisimiut show an enlarged ice sheet that extended southwestwards on to the shelf, with an ice stream centred over Holsteinsborg dyb. High level periglacial terrain composed of blockfield and tors is dated to between 101 and 142 ka using 26Al and 10Be cosmogenic exposure ages. These limit the maximum surface elevation of the Last Glacial Maximum ice sheet in this part of southwest Greenland to ca 750–810 m asl, and demonstrate that terrain above this level has been ice free since MIS 6. Last Glacial Maximum ice thickness on the coast of ca 700 m implies that the ice sheet reached the mid to outer continental shelf edge to form the Outer Hellefisk moraines. Exposure dates record ice surface thinning from 21.0 to 9.8 ka, with downwasting rates varying from 0.06 to 0.12 m yr−1. This reflects strong surface ablation associated with increased air temperatures running up to the Bølling Interstadial (GIS1e) at ca 14 ka, and later marine calving under high sea levels. The relatively late retreat of the Itilleq ice stream inland of the present coastline is similar to the pattern observed at Jakobshavn Isbræ, located 250 km north in Disko Bugt, which also retreated from the continental shelf after ca 10 ka. We hypothesise that the ice streams of West Greenland persisted on the inner shelf until the early Holocene because of their considerable ice thickness and greater ice discharge compared with the adjacent ice sheet.