Using Sedimentology and GIS Analysis to Interpret Paleo-Ice Flow in Northern Iceland

Alyson G. Hampsch, Gettysburg College
Sarah M. Principato, Gettysburg College
Elizabeth K. Emmons, Gettysburg College

This work was presented at the 49th Annual Northeast Geological Society of America Meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, March 23-25, 2014.


This study uses Geographic Information System (GIS) and sedimentology analyses to determine paleo-ice flow paths in northern Iceland during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Till samples were collected from three regions south of Hunafloi: the valleys Svinadalur and Vatnsdalur, and the Hrutafjardarhals highlands. Forty five samples were analyzed for water content, organic content, magnetic susceptibility, and grain size. There are notable differences in the magnetic susceptibility and organic material in the Svinadalur samples compared to Hrutafjardarhals and Vatnsdalur, likely from differences in the bedrock composition. ArcGIS and ENVI were used to quantify characteristics of streamlined landforms in Svinadalur, using a digital elevation model (DEM), aerial photographs, and satellite data. GIS analyses of streamlined landforms include measurements of length, width, elongation ratio, orientation, and density. A total of 537 streamlined landforms have been identified in the Svinadalur valley. The elongation ratio is high, with both drumlins and megascale glacial lineations (MSGL) identified. The orientation is northwest-southeast and the density of the landforms is high. The landform characteristics provide evidence for the existence of an ice stream in the Svinadalur valley during the LGM, feeding ice into the Hunafloi bay.