Glacier geomorphology

Icelandic geology is characterised by repeated eruptions and glacially eroded strata. The southern outlet glaciers of the Vatnajökull ice cap have greatly influenced the landscape along the coast and created a rugged alpine mountainous area. The outlet glaciers of Öræfajökull have scoured the hills of the volcano and sculptured the surrounding landscape. Glacial landforms include moraines, glacial lakes, dry river beds and jökulhlaup deposits. Scientists interpret these glacial landscapes and determine the extent of the glaciers at different times. Glaciers and glacial rivers reshape the landscape in many ways. The ice itself is too soft to erode the bedrock, but rocks and gravel embedded in the ice carve the glacier bed, creating so-called glacial striations. Glacial debris is carried on top of the glacier, within the ice, and at the interface of the bedrock and ice. The debris is finally deposited at the sides or margin of the glacier as moraines.

Geomorphological map of the foreland of Skálafellsjökull and Heinabergsjökull. Source: Evans and Orton (2015).

Geomorphological map of the foreland of Skálafellsjökull and Heinabergsjökull. Source: Evans and Orton (2015).

 

The foreland of Skaftafellsjökull outlet glacier. Small ponds emerge from beneath the glacier as it retreats. Photo: Snævarr Guðmundsson, September 13th 2014.

The foreland of Skaftafellsjökull outlet glacier. Small ponds emerge from beneath the glacier as it retreats. Photo: Snævarr Guðmundsson, September 13th 2014.

 

Glacially sculptured landscapes of Skálafellsjökull. Photo: Snævarr Guðmundsson, 27. júlí 2013.

Glacially sculptured landscapes of Skálafellsjökull. Photo: Snævarr Guðmundsson, 27. júlí 2013.

 

Glacial moraines from ca 1890 in front of Brúarjökull outlet glaciers. Photo: Ívar Örn Guðmundsson, 2003.

Glacial moraines from ca 1890 in front of Brúarjökull outlet glaciers. Photo: Ívar Örn Guðmundsson, 2003.