Student Authors

Jeremiah S. Johnson: Class of 2005

Document Type


Publication Date



Environmental Studies


Glacial erosion patterns on northwest Iccliind are quantified using a Geographic Information System (GIS) in order to interpret subglacial characteristics of part of northwest Iceland affected by ice sheet glaciation. Ice scour lake density is used as a proxy for glacial erosion. Erosion classes are interpreted from variations in the density of lake basins. Lake density was calculated using two dilTerent methods: the first is sensitive to the total number of lakes in a specific area, and the second is sensitive to total lake area in a specific area. Both of these methods result in a value for lake density, and the results for lake density calculated using the two methods are similar. Areas with the highest density of lakes are interpreted as areas with the most intense erosion with the exception of alpine regions. The highest density of lakes in the study area exceeds 8% and is located on upland plateaus where mean elevations range from 400 to 800 m a.s.l. Low lake density (0-2%) is observed in steep alpine areas where steep topography does not favor lake development. The G!S analysis is combined with geomorphic mapping to provide ground truth for the GIS interpretations and to locate paleo-ice flow indicators and landforms. The patterns identified in this study illustrate distinct regions of glacial erosion and flow paths that are best explained by two independent ice sheets covering northwest Iceland during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Areas of alpine glacial landforms and the presence of nunataks within the glaciated region support interpretations that Ice-free regions or cold-based ice cover existed on parts of northwest Iceland during the LGM. The methods developed in this study are easily transferable to other formerly glaciated regions and provide tools to evaluate subglacial properties of former ice sheets. The data generated yield important subglacial boundary conditions for ice sheet models of Iceland.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article is posted here by permission of the University of Colorado at Boulder for personal use, not redistribution.This article was published in Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, Volume 41, Number 1, 2009. DOI: 10.1657/1938-4246(07-065)[PRINCIPATO]2.0.CO;2.