Estimates of South Greenland late-glacial ice limits from a new relative sea level curve

Ole Bennike, Svante Björck, Kurt Lambeck

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Marine-lacustrine isolation contacts from seven basins in the Nanortalik area, South Greenland have been analysed and dated. The basins were isolated from the sea as a consequence of isostatic rebound following deglaciation. The isolation contacts were identified with litho- and biostratigraphical analyses, especially sedimentary changes, grey scale analyses and analyses of macroscopical remains of plants and animals. Dating was performed by analytical mass spectroscopy radiocarbon dating of macrofossils and bulk sediment samples. A slow initial relative sea level fall that begins at 13.8 cal ka BP changes to a rapid relative sea level fall before the sea level fell below the present-day sea level just prior to 10 cal ka BP. The emergence curve goes further back in time than any previous emergence curve constructed from Greenland, which reflects the early deglaciation of the studied region. The glacio-isostatic crustal rebound following deglaciation was around 110 m. The sea level history indicates that the margin of the Greenland ice sheet probably extended out to the shelf margin during the Last Glacial Maximum, and that the ice thickness must have been at least 1500 m over the outer coast. Thus the highest coastal mountains would have been ice-covered, which is surprising given their alpine character. In addition, the major part of the recession of the ice must have occured relatively late and quickly, maybe from 14 to 12 cal ka BP. The late Holocene transgression may, at least in part, be due to increased isostatic loading as a consequence of advancing glaciers during the Neoglaciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-186
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2002


  • Greenland
  • Holocene
  • Last glacial maximum
  • Sea-level changes

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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