Duration and ice thickness of a Late Holocene outlet glacier advance near Narsarsuaq, southern Greenland

Peter J.K. Puleo*, Yarrow Axford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) outlet glaciers are currently losing mass, leading to sea level rise. Reconstructions of past outlet glacier behavior through the Holocene help us better understand how they respond to climate change. Kiattuut Sermiat, a southern Greenland outlet glacier near Narsarsuaq, is known to have experienced an unusually large Late Holocene advance that culminated at ĝ1/41600calyrBP and exceeded the glacier's Little Ice Age extent. We report sedimentary records from two lakes at slightly different elevations in an upland valley adjacent to Kiattuut Sermiat. These reveal when the outlet glacier's surface elevation was higher than during the Little Ice Age and constrain the associated outlet glacier surface elevation. We use bulk sediment geochemistry, magnetic susceptibility, color, texture, and the presence of aquatic plant macrofossils to distinguish between till, glaciolacustrine sediments, and organic lake sediments. Our 14C results above basal till recording regional deglaciation skew slightly old due to a reservoir effect but are generally consistent with regional deglaciation occurring ~11000calyrBP. Neoglacial advance of Kiattuut Sermiat is recorded by deposition of glaciolacustrine sediments in the lower-elevation lake, which we infer was subsumed by an ice-dammed lake that formed along the glacier's margin just after ~3900calyrBP. This timing is consistent with several other glacial records in Greenland showing neoglacial cooling driving advance between ~4500-3000calyrBP. Given that glaciolacustrine sediments were deposited only in the lower-elevation lake, combined with glacial geomorphological evidence in the valley containing these lakes, we estimate the former ice margin's elevation to have been ~670ma.s.l., compared with ~420ma.s.l. today. The ice-dammed lake persisted until the glacier surface fell below this elevation at ~1600calyrBP. The retreat timing contrasts with overall evidence for cooling and glacier advance in the region at that time, so we infer that Kiattuut Sermiat's retreat may have resulted from reduced snowfall amounts and/or local glaciological complexity. High sensitivity to precipitation changes could also explain the relatively limited Little Ice Age advance of Kiattuut Sermiat compared with the earlier neoglacial advance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1777-1791
Number of pages15
JournalClimate of the Past
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 8 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Stratigraphy
  • Palaeontology


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